The Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League opened their 2019 campaign with a dominating 10-run victory over the Kokomo Jackrabbits on Tuesday night. But the Mallards already had one in the win column before the first pitch.
The Wisconsin collegiate summer baseball team took to Facebook one week before the season began to announce that the organization had cut promotional ties with fast food chain Chick-fil-A.
“For nineteen years, the Mallards have prided ourselves on building an experience focused on fun and inclusion while working hard to stay away from the sometimes negative energy that can surround day-to-day life around us. In that spirit, today we are announcing that we are ending our relationship with Chick-fil-A. What was intended as a simple promotion has evolved to associate us with something that we don’t stand for: the support of anti-LGBTQ organizations. Simply put, our corporate values do not align... We intend for the Duck Pond to be a place where everyone feels welcome. We are proud supporters of LGBTQ equality and human rights.”
The team went even further to apologize for “not realizing the negative impact of our decision and the people this would offend.”
The decision riled up some members of the Mallards fan base, but team president Vern Stenman isn’t letting any blowback impact the team’s commitment to inclusion. “We’ve worked really hard to … try to create this environment that’s comfortable for everyone,” Stenman told WKOW 27 News.
The partnership between the Mallards and the company was agreed to in mid-May, but criticism of Chick-fil-A’s charitable practices brought its discriminatory acts back to the forefront.
As Outsports reported, the head of the Chick-fil-A Foundation defended its $1.6 million donation to FCA in an interview with Business Insider, describing it as a “higher calling.” The Fellowship requires leaders, including student leaders, to agree to a “sexual purity policy” that forbids them from participating in “heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act.” Sex between unmarried straight people and gay sex does not “[constitute] an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God,” according to the FCA.
The Mallards didn’t want to be lumped-in with anti-LGBTQ activity by Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, leading the team to cut ties one week later on May 21. “What happened over the last week is the discussion started to shift to a spot where people were associating us with things that we really didn’t stand for from an inclusion perspective,” said Stenman.
The move might hurt the Mallards’ bottom line, but the team showed that it prioritizes maintaining a hate-free Duck Pond. The team looks poised to have a good season, but they’ve already become a champion for LGBTQ support.