The Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a resolution opposing Chick-fil-A as the new corporate sponsor for the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon and Kids of Steel program.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is not an official marathon partner, but district schools and employees have historically participated in the Kids Marathon and Kids of Steel programs, both on their own as well as in an official capacity representing the district.
The resolution prohibits official participation by any district employee, as well as the promotion of the Kids Marathon and Kids of Steel programs at schools by district employees.
“The family-owned, privately held restaurant company has expressed views contrary to and in conflict with the district’s non-discrimination policies,” the school board resolution said.
The resolution does not prohibit district employees or students and their families from participating in the programs and races.
Marathon organizers Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. did not address the school board’s action in a statement sent to the Tribune-Review.
“Every year through our Kid’s Marathon, P3R commits itself to encouraging kids to live healthy lives. This is a cause we’re always going to support, and we’ll always welcome anyone or any organization willing to join us in helping the kids of Pittsburgh discover the joy of running,” the statement said.
The marathon organizers in late September announced a three-year title partnership with Chick-fil-A, starting in 2019, for the Kids Marathon. The company will also sponsor the Kids of Steel program.
Chick-fil-A corporate leadership has been criticized for comments about same-sex marriage, as well as for making donations to socially-conservative organizations.
Earlier this month, an online petition started by a Pittsburgh-based consultant circulated to protest the selection of Chick-fil-A as a sponsor for the company’s “extreme anti-LGBTQ beliefs.”
The petition, started by Jodi Hirsh, the co-founder and principal consultant at Sequal Consulting, calls the partnership “unacceptable, damaging and offensive.”
The petition had 1,217 signatures as of Thursday.
Pittsburgh City Council members have also asked that the marathon remove Chick-fil-A as a title sponsor.
“Chick-Fil-A’s sponsorship of an event designed to encourage healthy living represents a significant setback for Pittsburgh as we continue our work to build a more progressive and welcoming city for all people regardless of whom they are or who they love,” council members wrote in a letter signed by all nine. “Most importantly, its sponsorship sends the wrong message to LGBTQIA+ children and families who face psychological abuse and experience the effects of bullying at disproportionate rates.”
Marathon organizers responded to complaints about the partnership in a statement posted to the Pittsburgh Marathon Twitter page Oct. 3.
“As an organization, P3R strives to be inclusive of any and all members of the Pittsburgh community, and we have and will continue to be accepting of any individual or family who wants to participate in our events,” the Oct. 3 statement said. “We are working with organizations throughout the region to ensure we continue to expand our programming accordingly.”
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.