(NEXSTAR) — News of Chick-fil-A having vice president of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) has some conservative groups calling for a boycott. The fast food giant has been a favorite among many over the years, due in large part to its religious roots and sporadic financial support of anti-LGBTQ organizations, but a previous announcement of Erick McReynolds, VP, DEI, who has been with the company’s DEI segment since 2020, has some claiming the company has “gone woke.”
It’s unclear why news of Chick-fil-A’s previous DEI initiatives took off on social media Tuesday, though it may possibly be due to several viral posts.
Loosely defined, DEI is a variable set of principles that organizations and companies are increasingly incorporating in their work environments. As explained by job resource outlet Indeed, DEI “is often used to describe the programs and initiatives a company has in place to improve those areas.”
DEI actions can include actions like hiring more diverse employees, making pay more equal, and including training for non-minority employees on how to support their minority colleagues, for instance. The principles have been criticized by many conservatives in recent years.
McReynolds previously said DEI is crucial to fulfilling the company’s corporate purpose, saying: “Chick-fil-A restaurants have long been recognized as a place where people know they will be treated well. Modeling care for others starts in the restaurant, and we are committed to ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business.”
According to Chick-fil-A’s DEI page, its initiative hopes to focus on promoting equal access to opportunities, valuing differences and “creating a culture of belonging.” The company cites several groups it says it has supported, including Women in Business (WIB) and the Black Employee Resource Group (BERG).
The announcement made ripples online Tuesday morning, with “Chick-fil-A” trending shortly after political strategist Joey Mannarino tweeted it out, writing, “This is bad. Very bad. I don’t want to have to boycott. Are we going to have to boycott?”
Mannarino included a poll had over 45,000 votes as of Tuesday morning.
Chick-fil-A’s DEI data comes just months after Bud Light captured the ire of some in the GOP for its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. It’s still too early to know if it will affect the company in the longterm, however. Especially since Chick-fil-A has practically been a part of conservative culture for several years.
Last April, activists in Texas sued the city of San Antonio over a policy preventing Chick-fil-A from opening in the city’s airport due to what it called “anti-LGBTQ behavior.” While the lawsuits earned support from the likes of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Supreme Court ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the city had violated previous “religious freedom” laws. Chick-fil-A ultimately chose not to pursue a San Antonio International Airport location. In May 2022, Michigan State Rep. Steve Carra reportedly celebrated the impending overturn of Roe V. Wade by treating colleagues to “God’s Chicken.”
After years of controversy surrounding its donations to organizations considered by many to be anti-LGBTQ (the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, to name two of around 80), Chick-fil-A announced in 2019 it would transition its support elsewhere. As of 2020, USA Today reported the company itself had not resumed donations to these organizations. Since 2020, Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy has personally supported the National Christian Charitable Foundation, as reported by several outlets. The organization worked to derail passage of the Equality Act in 2021.
Chick-fil-A said in its resurfaced announcement that it hopes its “Better Together” DEI actions signals a positive change for the company.
“We’re early on in our journey, but we’re honored by the opportunity to steward our organization’s greatest asset — our people — and are energized by the road ahead,” Chick-fil-A said.