GRAND RAPIDS –– Nine days after a social media announcement that it would leave the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce over a controversial endorsement of Bill Schuette, Founders Brewing Co. has changed its mind.
In a statement late on Friday, Michigan’s largest brewery said that the withdrawal announcement was the fault of an unnamed employee and stated that it would remain a member of the Chamber based on its “two-decade long relationship” with the Grand Rapids business group.
The initial controversy stems from the Chamber endorsing the GOP gubernatorial candidate despite opinions he’s written as the state’s sitting Attorney General regarding LGBT equality. The Chamber has been a vocal proponent of expanding protections for LGBT people, while saying its endorsement of Schuette stems from his “pro-business” policies.
On Sept. 19, multiple Founders Brewing social media accounts sent out statements denouncing the Chamber’s endorsement of Schuette and stated an intention to leave the organization. The posts appear to have since been deleted.
“We stand with our LGBTQ community and ask that the Grand Rapids Chamber reverse its decision,” the original Facebook post read.
Today, Founders executives say that the post was initiated “by an employee without the authorization of company leadership,” and that the brewery never intended to leave the Chamber.
“At Founders, we support and attract diverse, passionate employees with strong personal opinions,” Mike Stevens, co-founder and CEO of Founders, said in a statement. “While we celebrate diversity in everything that we are and everything we do, as a company we strive to stay focused on beer — and leave advocacy and politics to others. To the extent that the message was interpreted as an endorsement or opposition to a particular candidate, we want to be clear — Founders does not endorse any political candidates.”
On Friday evening, a Founders spokesperson declined to answer why it took the company so long to reach this conclusion, saying that “there will be no further comment from the company on this matter.”
The brewery found itself in a similar situation almost 10 years ago when it decided against holding a benefit for Planned Parenthood.
A Chamber executive did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday evening.
Other companies and business executives have called on the Chamber to rescind the Schuette endorsement, as MiBiz previously reported.