Subway: Think Fresh

Following Donald Trump’s attack on the U. S. Women’s soccer team, and player Megan Rapinoe in particular, during the Olympic games, several franchise owners of Subway sandwich shops have asked to have Rapinoe dropped as a spokesperson for the food chain, according to the New York Post.

Without deigning to name her, Trump, who never did his own job said, “The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!” On the heels of such disparaging statements, some franchise owners want to drop Megan Rapinoe from a new advertisement, citing the fact that she chose to kneel during the National Anthem at the 2020 games as the reason why.

Rapinoe has been outspoken about her support for gender equality, equal pay and civil rights. In her Subway commercial she kicks a soccer ball at a man holding a burrito. Although some probably take that as an attack on men, it was actually a swipe at our unhealthy food choices, suggesting that we should choose Subway fresh food over burritos.

Blaming complaints they have received from their customers, some franchise owners met recently at the North American Association of Subway Franchisees and, among other items on their agenda, asked to have Rapinoe ousted. They wanted Rapinoe’s ad pulled from broadcast. They say customers have threatened to boycott, if the ad stays. I say: call their bluff!

When are companies going to stop letting a small, noisy minority dictate their business strategy? These chronic complainers only have the power you give them. I’ve said this ever since March 2003, when The Dixie Chicks, America’s top selling artists, were erased from our radio airwaves overnight because some listeners were irked by their criticism of then-President George Bush. The radio stations, tour promoters and record industry did not wait to see if people would actually stop buying Chicks music and tickets because the performers were “ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” The people in power instead had a knee jerk reaction to irate threats and dropped the music group like a hot potato, before seeing if there would actually be fall out from their comment. That’s what I call cancel culture.

I’ve run a music website for a top-selling band for 14 years and owned it for 10. I can tell you that the site members who threaten to leave almost never do, unfortunately. They take umbrage when their favorite singer is not treated with the idolatry they believe is deserved and declare they will stop visiting the forum. Yet, invariably they remain, though continuing to complain. In fact, they only actually leave involuntarily, when I suspend or ban them, a move that makes them bitterly resentful. The point is, I don’t care how many angry phone calls, tweets and posts a company receives, very few people were going to stop listening to a radio station because it played the Dixie Chicks and fewer will forego their Subway meatball sandwiches because they saw Megan Rapinoe on a commercial.

No business owner wants to lose money, but the best way to retain customers is to focus on the customer complaints about food service, not those having to do with a spokesperson being too “woke.”

Listen, I’ve been on the other side. Do I despise Chick-Fil-A’s politics? Yes. Do I love Chick-Fil-A’s waffle fries? Also, yes. Despite the best of intentions, the fries win over my ethical standards. On another front, there is luckily nothing in a Hobby Lobby store that I ever need or want to buy, so when I threaten to boycott Hobby Lobby, that threat sticks.

Consumers are arrogant, but they’re also fickle. When Nike supported Black Lives Matter early on, it was threatened with boycotts. Nike ignored the threats and their sales never suffered. In fact, Nike sales actually picked up when it used famous kneeler Colin Kaepernick as its brand spokesman and Nike’s profits exceeded those of its competitors, in the two years that followed.

“That advertisement was a home run even the year it ran,” said Daniel Kaplan, reporter at The Athletic. He added that despite some Americans vowing to boycott the brand, that didn’t affect Nike’s numbers.

“Sales picked up for Nike after that. And its stock price has done better than its peers in the two years since,” Kaplan said.

These people huff and puff, but they can’t blow a house down. Overreacting to their threats makes failure of any conscientious stand on principle a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My message to Subway is don’t give in, not to the customers who complain to the franchise owners and not to the franchise owners demanding that Rapinoe be dumped. These are the same people who want to honor Ashli Babbitt, yet kneeling offends them? Why defer to that blatant hypocrisy? As Macbeth might observe, a boycott threat against Rapinoe comes from a “poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

It doesn’t matter if patrons agree with Rapinoe’s politics (assuming that one thinks seeking equality for women and minorities is merely political). She’s lean and active and the commercial suggests she keeps in shape by making healthy food choices at Subway. That should be enough to recommend her as a food brand ambassador. Need she herself qualify as a hero to advocate a hero sandwich?

She was chosen to endorse the food chain. She was paid to do so. If Subway’s corporate managers back down at the very hint of scandal, it tells me they’re not very good decision makers.

If the franchises don’t choose to display Rapinoe posters in their stores, it’s their choice, but misogyny should not be ratified at the corporate level.

Look Subway, Jared was a PR scandal. Megan Rapinoe is not. It’s not 2003 any longer. Don’t treat her the way the Dixie Chicks were treated. Eat fresh. Think fresh.

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