The Atlanta Falcons are nearly done building themselves a $1.5 billion dollar palace (not that they deserve it after how they behaved in the Super Bowl) and inside that stadium is a paradox: a Chick-fil-A that will be closed every Sunday.
Zaxby's now the official chicken of the Falcons. That doesn't mean Chick Fil-A isn't in the new stadium. It is closed on Sundays, however. pic.twitter.com/TfCIa3rz5T
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 16, 2017
Seven of of the Falcons’ eight home games will be played on Sunday, meaning that this particular Chick-fil-A will be open for exactly one game this season; a Thursday night game against the Saints on December 7th.
Got a tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium today. Lot of work to be done next few wks, but it's pretty spectacular. Circular video board stunning. pic.twitter.com/DwaHXM35ID
— Brett Edgerton (@EditorEdge) August 2, 2017
If you’re thinking to yourself, “That doesn’t make any sense,” it’s because it doesn’t — until it does. To get to the bottom of this riddle, some context is needed. Chick-fil-A is a privately held restaurant empire headquartered in Atlanta. “Empire” is appropriate since the company boasts over 2,000 locations, generated north of $6 billion in revenue in 2015, and is owned by the founder’s son.
Dan T. Cathy, current CEO of Chick-fil-A, is the son of S. Truett Cathy, who started the restaurant chain in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville in 1946 after serving in the US Army during World War II. But the crux of this paradox goes back to a different war: the Civil War.
S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist, operative word there being Southern not Baptist. To place Southern Baptists on the religious spectrum, think of them like Russian nesting dolls: Southern Baptists are inside of Baptists, which are inside of Protestants, which are inside of Christians. The Southern in “Southern Baptist” comes from a split from the national group of Baptists in the 1800s stemming from one issue: slavery. Without getting into minutia, Southern Baptists were pro-slavery, other Baptists held more progressive ideals.
That’s not to say that people who identify as Southern Baptists in 2017 are pro-slavery; that’s ridiculous, but the etymology of “Southern Baptist” is relevant here because Chick-fil-A’s company culture is derived from Truett Cathy’s religious beliefs (again, not asserting that Truett Cathy was pro-slavery, though his great-great-grandpa may have been).
The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says the company exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Chick-fil-A’s most unique feature, besides their delicious chicken sandwiches, is the fact that all of its locations are closed on Sundays.
“I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday.
“Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.”
S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A
Without getting into the rest of the politics that come with a Chick-fil-A sandwich, it’s important to establish that Truett Cathy held some controversial beliefs (he was born in 1921 — what do you expect?) but he was not necessarily a bad man.
He fostered children for more than 30 years and was given the last car off the assembly line at Ford’s Atlanta plant in recognition of his 60-year relationship with the factory. Additionally, he received the President’s Call to Service Award, an honor also bestowed to Grank Shankwitz, founder of the Make A Wish Foundation.
Talk is cheap, and while a lot of the things Chick-fil-A stands for are incongruent with the values held by the vast majority of Americans, at least the company puts its money where its mouth is. And that is why there’s a Chick-fil-A at the sparkling new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (colloquially known as “The Benz”) that will be closed on Sundays, the only day the Falcons play football.