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The heated debates around barbecue should be about Carolina or Memphis, maybe even vinegar- or mustard-based.

But barbeque and business now are at the mercy of the social media morality mob.

Shuford's Smokehouse, a Chattanooga-area business for more than three decades, found itself at the center of racial crosshairs last week.

Before Saturday's "Back the Blue" rally to support area law enforcement officials, Shuford's received a catering order for close to $1,000 to feed the supporters.

When that information reached local protesters, the Facebook angst turned on the popular eatery.

Was Shuford's filling an order even news? Should it be controversial?

The online backlash against Shuford's escalated to real-life threats. Threats of attacks, threats of burning down the restaurant's old location where Shuford's smokers are and where the restaurant had secured permits to build a retaining wall in hopes to relocate.

Truth be told, Shuford's is resilient — you don't thrive for 35 years in the rough-and-tumble restaurant industry without being able to handle the good and the bad. Heck, it was roughly 16 months ago that a mudslide prompted the city to close the Shuford's building at the foot of Signal Mountain.

But this is 2020 America — when trying to fill an order for a show of support for local law enforcement puts your lives and your business in the mob's crosshairs.

Shuford's took a $1,000 order, for goodness sake. In the time of coronavirus, a $1,000 order most certainly was welcome.

It's business, right? And we're still in America, right? As far as I know, the only color that matters in business is green.

But for the hand-wringing social media warriors who are already mumbling "Well, what about ... ," OK, let's play that game.

If this were some hate group sacrificing virgins or a criminal enterprise bound and determined to break the laws of God, country and man, then let's review whether a business should fill that catering order.

But this was an effort to support law enforcement.

The conversation about police reform is necessary. Terroristic threats about people who provide food for the people who are supporting police should be condemned by every American, regardless of color, creed, sex, social status, state, shoe size, political party or favorite SEC team ... even if it's Alabama, like the folks who own Shuford's.

A Shuford's employee who answered the phone Monday said the restaurant, under advice of attorneys, will have no other comment on the incident. The employee confirmed the various reports above that have circulated throughout Chattanooga over the weekend and that the restaurant canceled the order out of caution due to the seriousness of the threats.

These kind of threats are not the foundation of meaningful protests, which try to point out, call out and even correct injustices or wrongs. These threats are worse than riots that demonstrate why we need police in the first place. What happened at Shuford's is way worse.

Who among us wants the way we earn a living to be seriously threatened because they answered the phone to take an order?

Man, what a shame. It makes me long for the days when pork or brisket was a serious conversation about Shuford's.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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