Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is facing backlash from some after shining a Black man’s shoes on stage during a panel.
On June 14, Cathy participated in a roundtable discussion at Atlanta’s Passion City Church alongside Christian musician Lecrae Moore, who is Black, and Pastor Louie Giglio. After telling a story about racism and repentance, Cathy pulled out a shoe-shine brush and began to shine Moore’s sneakers, explaining that the world needs to have an “apologetic heart.”
“I invite folks to put some words to action here,” Cathy said. “And if we need to find somebody that needs to have their shoe shined, we need to just go right on over, and shine their shoes, whether they got tennis shoes on or not — maybe they have sandals on — but it really doesn’t matter.”
Cathy and his family, who own Chick-fil-A, are known for their Christian values, which influence business decisions, such as shutting doors on Sundays. The executive later revealed that he bought about 1,500 shoe-shine brushes a few years and gave them out to members of the Chick-fil-A staff.
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While Cathy’s message was intended as a display of repentance, it was ill-received by some individuals on social media, with conservative pundits and politicians among the unimpressed.
“I love Chick-fil-A and I defended them through some very difficult days. But I cannot in good conscience continue to do business with a company that thinks I’m a racist because of my skin color. God doesn’t make mistakes. Farewell, CFA,” wrote conservative columnist Todd Starnes in a June 19 tweet.
Meanwhile, Republican California Congressional candidate Errol Webber tweeted on June 19: “As a black man, I implore white people to stop this insanity. I don’t want anyone to shine my shoes, wash my feet or any other sanctimonious insanity. Just treat me like a person, and I’ll do the same to you.”
Cathy’s show of repentance comes amid a national conversation about race and diversity sparked following the May death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of a white police officer. Numerous companies spoke out against racial inequality, with many, such as Nike, Walmart and H&M, also making financial commitments to organizations supporting the racial justice fight. On June 18, Chick-fil-A announced it would grant $5 million to nonprofits that are Black-led and/or serve the Black community at its annual True Inspiration Awards. The 2020 giving commitment is four times more than last year’s combined grants of $1.2 million.