Boycott McDonald's if you wish, but does Little Athletics have to suffer for your protest? Photo: Jeffrey Chan
McDonald's is the target, but it pains me to admit it: people are aiming their arrows at the wrong bullseye.
Anti-McDonald's protesters in Melbourne started a petition asking Little Athletics to drop McDonald's as a sponsor because they promote junk food to children. If you've read my column in the past, you'd think I'd sign this petition, right? Surprisingly wrong. Here's why.
If you don't like something, stop doing it. Stop eating it. Stop drinking it. And stop giving it to your kids.
McDonald's is a business. We all know that. And we are all aware of the type of food they provide, and the nutritional ingredients are all over the internet and at each store location. Do they want to increase sales? You betcha. Therefore, they have the right to spend marketing dollars where they please, just as a consumer has a right to spend their hard-earned where they wish.
The Little Athletics petition is based on McDonald's targeting children "under the guise of community participation". I'd focus attention on the "guise" that also provides more than 7200 beds in 52 countries to families who have children in hospital … donating hundreds of millions of dollars. Guise? I don't see it at Ronald McDonald Houses.
When I was young, of course I had McDonald's. Mum took us there for a treat – once in a while. As an adult, that was her choice for us. Dad owned KFCs around the area, and we had fried chicken – once in a while.
But if TV ads drove me into a kicking and screaming fit because I wanted a burger, fries and a large drink? Mum served me up a fried smack upside the head and forced me to eat extra green beans and every morsel of her not-made-for-MasterChef meat loaf.
I'm no longer a child. Do I have McDonald's? Once in a while on a road trip, I choose to make that stop.
Mum chose for me as a child, and I choose for myself as an adult. The one consistent verb in that sentence is choice. The bow and arrow shouldn't be pointed at one business, it should be pointed at ourselves and the choices that we make as individuals.
I live in Sydney's CBD, and I pass by convenience stores loaded with junk food. Cigarettes are for sale. Then bakeries and chocolate stores tempt our sweet tooth. Cafes serve up umpteen types of coffee (yes, caffeine is a drug). Pie and fish and chip shops with everything battered, fried, and salted. Bars (yes, alcohol is a drug) on every other street corner. Grocery stores are loaded with processed junk. City food halls with 90 per cent unhealthy choices stacked with energy and fizzy drinks. You can't walk 10 metres in any big city in the world without being confronted with some kind of unhealthy food, drink or drug.
We'd have to petition against every chocolate brand, unhealthy cereal and even the couch manufacturers that make couches so comfortable they discourage us from getting up and going for a run. Let's start aiming the bow at ourselves because we choose what we put into our bodies.
I refuse to believe children have so much power in the decision-making process. Who dresses them, grabs the car keys, puts them in their seatbelts, drives, parks, and pays for fast food? Parents make the decision at every single part of that equation.
When I was a kid in Chicago's suburbs, I played little league baseball and our sponsor was Dairy Queen. They bought our uniforms and gained some advertising. After a game, we'd get banana splits, milkshakes, and ice cream cones. We loved it. We didn't petition against our sponsor, we just chose to make it a treat once in a while.
As an adult, I now choose to not eat banana splits and cronuts. I choose for Mike's health. Dairy Queen doesn't choose for me, because I'm stronger than their marketing and advertising and would teach my children the same thing.
Call me Switzerland, because I support the Melbourne protesters' right to create a petition, but I also support any pizza, chicken or burger joint to set up shop where they'd like. I support the petition without signing it, and I support McDonald's by lacing up my shoes and jogging on by.
If you don't like something, stop doing it. Stop eating it. Stop drinking it. And stop giving it to your kids. Don't like the advertising on television? Throw the TV and video games out the window.
I support the protesters and everybody else looking to create a charitable, healthier Australia. And I support Aussie fisherman and farmers by passing over some dollars for salmon on top of spinach salad.
That's my choice, and I believe every Australian can also make smarter choices. I just hope the Golden Arches aren't the reason for anybody to not take the field. That would be the worst thing that could happen.
Should all fast food outlets be disallowed from sponsoring sports?