Why Some Subway Fans Are Calling For A Boycott Over Ad Featuring Megan Rapinoe

As one of the most well-known sandwich brands in the world, Subway definitely does a good job of ensuring that it stays relevant with its large base of customers. As noted on the official website, the chain currently has more than 40,000 locations all around the globe and states, "We've become the leading choice for people seeking quick, nutritious meal options that the whole family can enjoy."

As such, the quick-serve food spot is constantly working on its menu and coming up with new ways to keep its fans happy — and satisfied. According to QSR Magazine, Subway is currently executing its largest menu update in years and has hired well-known athletes to bring visibility to the wide-reaching ad campaign, which is titled "Eat Fresh Refresh." Major names that have participated include basketball player Stephen Curry, tennis legend Serena Williams, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and Super Bowl legend Tom Brady, and commercials are voiced over by NBA star Charles Barkley

While the campaign is undoubtedly promising, not everyone has been pleased in particular with one star's presence in the commercials, notably Megan Rapinoe, which has made the launch a bit controversial, says Business Insider. Moreover, it is yet another flash point in the tempestuous relationship between the franchisor and franchisees as of late.

This is why some are upset about Megan Rapinoe's cameos

As reported by Business Insider, some customers aren't comfortable with Megan Rapinoe's appearances in the new Subway ads and are making their displeasure known. The reason stems from the soccer player's stance on police violence and bringing awareness to cases of brutality and racism in the US. Along with many of her teammates, before an Olympic match in Tokyo, Rapinoe chose to kneel during the American anthem as a protest, like many other athletes have done in recent years. She said (via Today), "It's an opportunity for us to continue to use our voices and use our platforms to talk about the things that affect all of us intimately in different ways."

But there are those that consider Rapinoe's behavior unpatriotic, and they have now targeted Subway with threats of boycotting the chain unless they pull the commercials featuring the US Women's Soccer star. One angry Subway customer wrote on Facebook, "Your ad using Megan Rapinoe makes me think twice about even visiting Subway. She is a very negative representation of our nation, and I don't want to support her." That person claimed that there are other influential and inspiring individuals that the brand could choose instead. Another customer said that they will avoid Subway along with the rest of their family members until Rapinoe is removed as a spokesperson. 

Franchise owners are upset about this latest development as well. As per Business Insider, a disappointed franchisee shared their thoughts in a private forum, writing, "By knowingly hiring a flashpoint personality to represent the brand with our money, the franchisor has failed." Another franchise operator found a note on the door of his location that stated: "Boycott Subway until Subway fires the anti-American." Meanwhile, a representative for the company simply said that its "super-star athletes are a natural fit for the 'Eat Fresh Refresh' campaign."

The franchisee relationship has been put to the test in recent months

The broader point of contention this controversy has brought up, as it relates to Subway franchisees at least, is that the operators who pay into Subway's advertising fund have no say in what runs as advertisements. As it is, the chain's marketing is funded by a pool of money utilizing 4.5% of the operator fees, notes Business Insider. Alone, this might only be a minor squabble. However, this facet is combined with many of the other chain's decisions that have impacted business in recent months, say operators, including the previous removal of roast beef, the fires that have resulted from faulty grill machinery, according Food & Wine, and the competition that comes from how many Subways are starting open too close together, according to another report by Business Insider

Worse, however, is that at the end of Business Insider's piece on the Rapinoe ad, they note that the "Eat Fresh Refresh" campaign only increased visits to locations in July by .7% when compared to the same time period in 2019. And that's even with Subway offering 1 million free subs on July 13 to kick off the campaign. And that has left many franchisees upset with the current Subway CEO John Chidsey. As one told Business Insider in March 2021, "[Chidsey] doesn't really communicate well with franchisees. It's obvious that he thinks franchisees are his employees."