Arts & Entertainment
AFA suspends Ford boycott
By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Originally printed 6/9/2005 (Issue 1323 - Between The Lines News)
DETROIT - On again, off again. That's the story of the attempted American Family Association boycott of Ford Motor Company.
One week after announcing the boycott, on June 6 the AFA issued a press release saying, "After meeting with a group of Ford dealers, the American Family Association has suspended its boycott of Ford Motor Company until December 1, 2005."
The boycott was originally announced on May 30, one week after the anti-gay organization terminated an unsuccessful nine-year boycott of the Walt Disney Company. Both boycotts were called because of the companies' support of LGBT citizens.
Brian Dolan of Boston, who along with two straight friends launched SupportFord.com to counter the boycott within days of the AFA announcement, said, "We're incredibly excited and energized" by the news. In a June 6 email, Dolan and the other founders of SupportFord.com told supporters, "I've spoken to Ford, and they're very appreciative of your support. They feel like they're in an extremely delicate position, particularly since their stance was so grossly distorted, and unsolicited support from people like you counts far more than a bunch of knee-jerk folks on a mailing list punching out form letters."
Dolan, along with Danny Coxner of Los Angeles and Abel Lenz of New York, originally launched SupportFord.com in response to the boycott because, "we feel it's important for companies to set their own policies without the influence of organizations trying to slander them."
Jeff Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, said of the decision, "That was a pretty short-lived effort. Sounds like they must have stalled out. I hope that it's because [the AFA] realized the folly of it, but that's kind of giving them a little too much intellectual credit."
Dan Sturgis, the co-vice president of Pride at Work, said that the attempted AFA boycott of an American company sent a "mixed message." "Ford is in for the long haul and what AFA did is for the short run. The unions want us to support our union brothers and sisters. When the AFA comes in there - and a lot of our union brothers and sisters are pro-family - it sends a mixed message about the 'Buy American' message."
The "meeting with a group of Ford dealers" cited in the AFA press release suspending the boycott was the idea of Ford dealer Jerry Reynolds. Reynolds who owns dealerships in Texas and Oklahoma, met with AFA Chairman Donald Wildmon on June 5.
"I'd written a letter to Donald Wildmon last week regarding the boycott and just explained to him that the boycott was going to end up hurting the dealers and their employees primarily, because we are the face of Ford Motor Co," Reynolds told BTL June 6. "He was going to be in Dallas so we met and out of the meeting came an agreement that they would suspend the boycott for a minimum of six months, and during that time I would work with the AFA and top Ford management to discuss their concerns and solutions to them."
Reynolds was not acting out of concern for LGBT citizens, however. "What Ford does - I can't control and really don't want to comment one way or the other. ... I agree with much of what the AFA stands for - family values," he said.
Asked his feelings about gay and lesbian families, Reynolds said, "That's [Ford's] issue and it's not mine, so you have to get a comment from them. If we can sit down as a group and discuss these things there may be some mediums there that can be reached, and that's my hope."
Dolan and the SupportFord.com team are urging fair-minded citizens to continue supporting and spreading the word about their site.
On June 6, Ford Motor Company issued a statement saying, "Ford Motor Company is pleased that the American Family Association has suspended its boycott of Ford products. We look forward to having an open dialogue with the AFA that leads to greater mutual understanding. Ford values all people - regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences."
"We're asking people to continue supporting the site because we're concerned that the AFA will backtrack," Dolan said. "But they have such a terrible record with boycott success that we hope we won't continue to need to operate the site. One after another, they give up on [these boycotts] without really affecting any change."
To help Ford Motor Company prevail against any "mutual understanding" between Ford and the AFA that would weaken Ford's support of the LGBT community, visit http://www.supportford.com and sign the online petition; then, use the link to the contact information for individual dealers and let them know you appreciate Ford.