Editor's note: The following statement was submitted to Duke and The Chronicle before President Vincent Price and Kevin White, vice president and director of athletics, released a statement in support of the LGBTQ+ community Aug. 27, 2019.
President Price and Dr. Kevin White,
In the past three years, Duke has experienced a number of incidents that call into question how inclusive and welcoming our campus is for LGBTQ students, employees and faculty, but the university responded each time with swift condemnation of the acts and affirmative support for those who were targeted. Therefore, it is disheartening to learn that just a few days after the fall semester begins at the end of August, Duke Football will meet Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. It is shocking to see that our alma mater would enter into a business arrangement with a sponsor that has made no secret of its disdain for the LGBTQ community. Duke would never enter into such an agreement with a company who unapologetically professed financial support for racist, misogynist or anti-Semitic groups.
When those working in Athletics have been questioned, they have responded that the contract was signed three years ago, as if that is an excuse. Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ crusade has been well documented for years. They have given millions of dollars to groups (including certified hate groups) that depict gays as pedophiles, lobby against LGBTQ rights and advocate for conversion therapy—despite the fact that medical evidence has proven that such therapy is impossible and harmful. Chick-fil-A is not a rehabilitated company that has seen the error of its ways and has made changes. Just three months ago, the head of their charitable branch called the company’s support for anti-LGBTQ organizations a “higher calling” and added that they have no intention of curtailing such funding. This position is in stark contrast to the values that we as an institution represent and try to instill in our students and employees.
In 2013, the football team participated in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which was the source of concern by many of us then as well, but unlike that game, this one was a voluntary decision, not one that was forced on us by the bowl selection process. When this contract was signed, it was likely hailed by Athletics as a terrific deal that would support programs for our student-athletes, give them great exposure and showcase Blue Devil pride, likely without any consideration of the bigger issues here. But there is another kind of pride at play here and we feel that the university should seize on this as a teaching moment and not miss the opportunity to make our values known by all who watch the game.
While canceling the contract seems like an appealing solution on the surface, understandably, it would be an imprudent move with other far-reaching complications. However, it cannot be overstated that Duke voluntarily co-branding itself with Chick-fil-A undermines its moral standing by silently affirming Chick-fil-A and its very public support of hate groups.
Duke must mitigate this offensive action with some type of response. During televised games, for example, there are often ads for each of the schools and this would be a terrific opportunity for Duke to highlight its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Alternatively, we could also issue a statement that reaffirms support for all members of our community or sew a patch on the uniforms of our coaching staff that states, “We are all Duke” and make it known what that fully means. There are many ways that we can make our position known without being disrespectful or controversial, and the Duke LGBTQ Network would be happy to participate in that type of discussion.
We must do something. Otherwise, we will be judged by the actions of Chick-fil-A—and that is not who we are.
Alex Osmond T '09, President, Duke LGBTQ Network
Todd Montgomery T '83, Vice President, Duke LGBTQ Network
Jack Boyd T '85, Board Member, Duke LGBTQ Network
Thomas C. Clark T '69, Board Member, Duke LGBTQ Network
Mark Stephanz T '83, Board Member, Duke LGBTQ Network
Katherine Turner T '90, Board Member, Duke LGBTQ Network