Boise, Idaho — A downtown Boise coffee shop is taking legal action against Boise State University. Big City Coffee filed a tort claim last week seeking an excess of $10 million dollars from Boise State and multiple campus officials according to the Idaho Statesman.
Big City alleges that university officials made untrue statements that defamed the business and violated a contract because they received complaints about the owner’s display of ‘Thin Blue Line’ flags in support for police.
According to the tort claim, the owner of Big City Coffee began displaying her support for police and first responders in July 2016, after the shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers. This support included displaying Thin Blue Line flags at the downtown coffee shop. The claim says that Big City Coffee advised the university that there had been a past dispute with a Boise State faculty member who took issue with her display of Thin Blue Line merchandise at the downtown shop. But was told by a campus official that it would not be an issue for her campus location.
According to the tort claim, the owner of the coffee shop, Sarah Fendley, borrowed $150,000 to equip the campus location and train staff, all while maintaining the downtown shop. Big City Coffee later signed a contract for food and beverage service on campus. The new shop opened in September 2020—and the Thin Blue Line flags and other law enforcement-related materials were not displayed at the campus coffee shop.
Big City Coffee’s attorneys say they obtained emails showing that some campus officials were discussing “the potential for controversy” between campus groups and the coffee shop as early as July 2020. If Fendley or others had been made aware of this or known that a student group began to raise concerns, Fendley might not have not have invested the time, money, and effort to open the location, according to the tort claim.
In October, Fendley became aware of a social media message that called for a protest of Big City Coffee for displaying Thin Blue Line messaging—at the downtown location. A day later, Fendley was called to a meeting with several campus administrators and was told that Big City Coffee’s presence at the university started a “firestorm.” The tort claim says that a “small but vocal minority was demanding that BSU remove (Big City Coffee) from campus.”
“To make clear, (Big City Coffee) was forced off the BSU campus by the Administration,” according to the tort claim. It also alleges that the university coercively tried twice to have Fendley sign a statement saying the departure was mutual.
Big City Coffee is seeking monetary damages in excess of $10 million. The figure is based on the loss of income from the coffee shop’s closure and “reputational and emotional damages suffered due to being wrongfully and maliciously labeled as a racist and a white supremacist,” according to the claim.
Meanwhile, the case shows yet again how so-called educators and activists aren’t just clueless about the meaning of a symbol—and the reverance of it in honoring fallen officers during (religious) funeral ceremonies.