An anti-L.G.B.T.Q. group is organizing a boycott of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade over performances by nonbinary Broadway actors, in the latest attempt to force companies to reverse course on social issues that some far-right groups consider too liberal.
The parade’s response: march on.
Similar campaigns have led brands including Budweiser and Target to cave to activists’ demands. But the parade has long had close ties to Broadway, one of the most L.G.B.T.Q. friendly industries in the city.
The group, which is called One Million Moms, says it has drawn about 33,000 signatures in support of its boycott. But it appears to have overplayed its hand, said Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business.
“I think this is the easiest ‘no’ in the history of Macy’s,” Mr. Galloway said. The protesters “have vastly overestimated their leverage here.”
One Million Moms is protesting the participation of two nonbinary actors: Alex Newell, the Tony Award-winning performer who stars as Lulu in “Shucked,” and Justin David Sullivan, who plays May in the musical “& Juliet.” Both are likely to take part in musical acts during the event, along with hundreds of other performers from Broadway and elsewhere.
Macy’s declined to comment on the petition, but reaffirmed its plans to proceed as normal.
“We look forward to celebrating this iconic Thanksgiving tradition again next week,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
The actors and the producers of the shows declined to comment. NBC, the network that will broadcast the show, also declined to comment.
This is not the first year in which a gender-nonconforming artist has appeared in the parade. Kim Petras, a transgender German pop singer, performed in 2021. In 2018, the two leading women from the musical “The Prom” shared a kiss during a song-and-dance number.
Monica Cole, the director of One Million Moms, said in a statement that the goal of the campaign was to force Macy’s to “no longer push the L.G.B.T.Q. agenda” or expose viewers to “liberal nonsense.”
The group, based in Tupelo, Miss., is part of the American Family Association, a conservative, Christian organization with a long history of protesting media projects, including a campaign to boycott the movie “Barbie” because it included a transgender actor. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy group, has designated the organization a hate group.
The parade, entering its 97th year, has included Broadway productions for more than 50 years, and is renowned for its revolving cast of towering cartoon balloons and floats. Last year, the show was watched by 27 million viewers on NBC and the streaming platform Peacock. It was also the network’s most-watched entertainment program of the year, according to a spokeswoman.
But even in a progressive city like New York, companies can be tentative in their response to conservative protests, said Jed Bernstein, an adjunct professor at N.Y.U. Stern, and a former president of the Broadway League, the industry trade association.
“Brands are acutely aware that storm clouds can gather very quickly,” he said, referring to the power and reach of social media.
For large companies, there’s a complicated calculus involved in trying not to alienate consumers. “To respond carries risk, to not respond carries risk,” he said about the petition. And once a company supports an issue, it will be expected to defend its position going forward.
“A lot of these fringe groups are drunk with power,” said Mr. Galloway, after Bud Light was dethroned as the country’s top-selling beer because of a boycott over the brand’s partnership with a transgender influencer named Dylan Mulvaney.
But the circumstances of the parade protest are much different. For one, Macy’s customers tend to live in urban, less conservative markets, he said.
“If I were advising Macy’s,” Mr. Galloway said, “this is an opportunity for them to say the following: Judge me by my enemies.”