The Pittsburgh Marathon ran into some problems earlier this month when it announced Chick-fil-A as the official title partner for its children’s race.
Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. (P3R) announced its partnership with Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh late last month and celebrated with a family-oriented event on Oct. 2. Children posed for photos with the iconic cow mascot dressed in running gear and took home prizes and coupons.
Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh serves as the title partner of the kids' marathon and a presenting partner for Kids of STEEL, a nutrition and activity program for children in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We’re grateful to Chick-fil-A for their support and are thrilled they share our commitment to inspiring the next generation of runners throughout the Pittsburgh region,” Troy Schooley, P3R senior vice president, said in a statement.
But the partnership was decried by some, including LGBT activists.
“Oh, no no [Pittsburgh Marathon] has brought [Chick-fil-A] on as a sponsor of their youth races,” Sue Kerr, founder and editor of the Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents blog, wrote on Twitter. “[LGBTQ] youth & youth from non-Christian faiths deserve better. This is a divisive, hurtful choice.”
On her blog, Kerr argued it’s “highly inappropriate for any Christian organization or business to eagerly jump into anything to do with youth and children right now,” citing the ongoing sex abuse controversies in the Catholic Church and the sexual misconduct allegations recently levied against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Chick-fil-A is known for its founder’s strong Christian beliefs. The fast food restaurants are traditionally closed on Sundays for employees to “set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose,” the company says.
The company encourages store operators to have “a positive impact in the local community” and be “on the lookout for ways to help their communities.” The Chick-fil-A Foundation has also donated about $1.5 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a non-profit sports ministry group.
Kerr and others have circulated a petition demanding P3R retract its partnership with Chick-fil-A Pittsburgh. Nearly 500 signatories have been collected for the online petition.
In response to criticism, P3R said it “strives to be inclusive of any and all members of the Pittsburgh community” and promised to continue “to be accepting of any individual or family who wants to participate in our events.”
“Our intent with this partnership, along with all of our partnerships, is to further expand all of our events and programming … This partnership with Chick-fil-A will help us ensure even more children in southwestern Pennsylvania can learn and share in our love of running,” it said in a statement online.