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LGBT Activists Dump Coca-Cola in Times Square In Response To Sochi 2014 Sponsorship

Coke 2

Today, the gutters of New York City ran red with...empty Coca-Cola bottles? At noon on Wednesday, protestors gathered in Times Square to demand that Coca-Cola rescind its sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The crowd was made up of LGBT groups who oppose Coke's involvement with the Olympic Games due to the anti-gay propaganda laws currently in place in Russia, and thus, Coca-Cola's transitive support of those laws. The protest, as Towleroad previously reported, was sponsored by Queer Nation, the group which also boycotted Russian vodka starting back in July.

Coke2The Queer Nation NY release reads:

Gay groups charge the beverage giant of sponsoring hate and will dump Coke into the street and will crush Coke cans to protest of the company’s continuing silence on Russia’s anti-LGBT law and to demand that it immediately withdraw its corporate sponsorship of the Games. Protestors will use the hashtag #DumpCoke on all social media channels.

“By sponsoring the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Coca-Cola is associating its brands with state-sanctioned gay-bashing,” said Queer Nation co-founder Alan Klein. “Coca-Cola is sacrificing the safety and security of Russian LGBT people for profit – a position that opposes fundamental Olympic principles, runs counter to the International Olympic Committee charter, and that will tarnish its global image for decades to come.”

Queer Nation’s Klein added, “Sponsoring the Games gives legitimacy to the host nation and that is exactly what Coca-Cola did when it sponsored the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany. We hope that Coca-Cola does not ignore its own history and does the right thing by refusing to support another regime that targets groups for hatred.”

Images courtesy of Scott Wooledge.

Coke1Along with their official statement, Queer Nation outlined a set of demands that Coca-Cola must follow in order to gain the support of the LGBT groups involved in the protest:

LGBT groups are issuing the following Statement of Demands to The Coca-Cola Company:

Coca-Cola must:

  • Withdraw its sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.
  • Release a statement in English and Russian that condemns workplace discrimination, harassment, and bullying directed at customers and employees based on gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Publish and publicize its LGBT employment policies on its Russian website in Russian and on physical bulletin boards and websites at all Coca-Cola owned and operated facilities.
  • Conduct periodic company-wide sensitivity trainings about its LGBT employment policies worldwide. 
  • Institute a long-range policy to widely distribute its LGBT employment policies in human resources documentation and internal communications at all owned and operated facilities worldwide.
  • Require that all Coca-Cola bottlers, distributors and vendors implement LGBT employment policies as a condition of their contract with The Coca-Cola Company.

Only time will tell how these fraught Olympic Games will progress, and what impact corporate sponsorships, protests, and media coverage will have on the LGBT community. Do you thin it is likely that Coca-Cola, and other corporations, will retract their sponsorship of the Games? Sound off in the comments below.

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  1. Omg. Some of these activists are so annoying. Boycotting coke is going to do absolutely nothing to help lgbt people in Russia.

    Posted by: Adam | Aug 28, 2013 6:28:31 PM

  2. You know any organization with the word "queer" in it are a bunch of drama queens trying to get attention. Instead of boycotting everything, why not actually do something that will actually help gay people in Russia and focus less on coke who doesn't care about anything other than making a buck.

    Posted by: Jamie | Aug 28, 2013 6:32:58 PM

  3. I am literally laughing out loud that the first comment was by someone attempting to be taken seriously by sitting there, doing nothing, coming up with no ideas, and dissing folks who are actually doing something. THAT is #annoying.

    Posted by: Ken | Aug 28, 2013 6:36:31 PM

  4. Okay, good for gay activists ONLY if they clear or pay someone to clear the trashes afterward.

    Posted by: AndyTowlette | Aug 28, 2013 6:44:41 PM

  5. Hey, you know all the backlash that Justin Bieber got for pissing into a mop bucket that some low-wage worker was going to have to clean up?

    Same thing.

    Posted by: rippppper | Aug 28, 2013 6:46:30 PM

  6. So who had to clean up the mess they made?

    Posted by: NotSafeForWork | Aug 28, 2013 6:47:25 PM

  7. All this dumping. Soon I think the only real attention getter would actually be taking a dump in Times Square.

    Posted by: WH | Aug 28, 2013 6:47:25 PM

  8. Ken: Are you familiar with the concept of the circles of concern, influence, and control? While all of us are concerned about what is happening in Russia, the ugly truth is that none of us hold the influence or control necessary to change the laws of a sovereign nation.

    Whether you want to admit it or not, Adam is correct. The number of people/groups that hold influence over Putin is tiny. CEOs of beverage-makers are not part of that group.

    Aside from diplomacy, the only group that could probably affect change is the IOC. Sadly, they don't seem to be doing much.

    Posted by: alex | Aug 28, 2013 6:53:42 PM

  9. Dumping a product already on shelves is the dumbest form of boycott. It's already been purchased by someone, and if the company is in an offending country then that government already has its tariffs or taxes in hand. And how powerfully symbolic it is to dump what amounts to a luxury good.

    @KEN--Yeah, it would be annoying if your assumption is correct that commenting on a story means one is not doing anything. But it takes about three minutes to read a story on here and comment, and hopefully people who recognize this boycott as stupid are trying to also be effective activists in other ways. People like you, I imagine.

    Posted by: Daniel | Aug 28, 2013 6:53:46 PM


    THINKING COKE COULD BACK OUT -- childish and unrealistic. They would be sued like crazy and unable to sponsor future Games, as well as lose reputation for damaging the Games.
    They would be in court for half a decade.

    Posted by: Bob | Aug 28, 2013 7:04:10 PM

  11. Would it have made sense for people in France to boycott L'Oreal or Air France when Prop. 8 was passed in California? Both of those French companies did business in California, so they can change CA laws, right?

    Of course not...but, that's the reasoning being used.

    Posted by: ali | Aug 28, 2013 7:13:33 PM

  12. It's all well and fine if they want to boycott Coca Cola, but where do those cans go hmm?

    Posted by: Zen | Aug 28, 2013 7:18:24 PM

  13. This protest and the demands are counter productive, naive and misguided. And trashing the street is just another mess for someone to clean up. Channel your rage elsewhere folks. Coke is not the issue.

    Posted by: Joe in Ct | Aug 28, 2013 7:31:58 PM

  14. What a crap way to protest. Really? littering??? What a bunch of assholes.

    Posted by: Zeta | Aug 28, 2013 7:32:51 PM

  15. @JOE IN CT: couldn't have said it better myself, but those involved in this stunt will scream "It's about the P.R.!!!!" when you point out just how dumb and ineffective their actions are.

    Posted by: E.nigma | Aug 28, 2013 7:34:46 PM

  16. @Ali: The CA Prop 8 situation was very different. For one thing, the majority of legislators and even the majority of the public were on our side. There was no unanimous passing of Prop 8 with no debate and with a media silenced from discussing how problematic it was.
    For another thing, the Russian situation is more extreme, since it is an imprisonable offense to even discuss the issue openly or possibly for us to mention our families in public.
    And L'Oreal and Air France were not supporting the backers of Prop 8 with their biggest public relations project of the decade.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 28, 2013 7:40:45 PM

  17. GregV: I admit it's not a perfect analogy. But, neither is your claim in that Coca-Cola is sponsoring Russia. They are long-time sponsors of the Olympics, which happens to be in Russia next year.

    Posted by: ali | Aug 28, 2013 7:49:00 PM

  18. Corporations do not like negative publicity- and a feel good product like Coke even less- but it's doubtful that they will pull from a contract that would lead to them loosing millions of dollars.

    Posted by: jarago | Aug 28, 2013 7:54:04 PM

  19. I think every one commenting so far has missed the point. Pretty obtuse in light of the successful Dump Russian Vodka protests. The aim is NOT to have Stoli or Coke executives call their buddy Putin on the phone, or even to damage sales of Stoli and Coke - but rather to so something dramatic and visible that attracts the attention of media and keeps this story alive through the Olympics in February.

    The vodka protest was successful. But the media needs the story refreshed every few days with something new or it loses interest; and it must be visual or it doesn't get on TV.

    I hope they picked up after themselves, but other than that - this protest is brilliant and is a step that is exactly what's needed. Next McDonalds, and after that? Well, I hope creative minds can conceive of something to keep this story in the news!

    Posted by: Zlick | Aug 28, 2013 8:25:48 PM

  20. @Ken +1.
    @Daniel +1.

    @E.NIGMA, you're right. It is about the P.R. Why do you think Putin personally lobbied to host the Olympics? He's desperate to use this event and the World Cup _to build Russia's popularity_ so the world will look the other way as he leads the country into fascism. *His* P.R. is working, and it will continue to work if no one counters it.

    @Adam, @Jamie, @Alex, et. al., we have to work with the levers of influence that are available to us. Putin is making a huge P.R. push to launder the character of his actions, and Coke is a major funder of that push. It makes sense to hold them accountable for their role. So what if they "can't" pull out now? Do you really think corporations that back fascist regimes should only be held accountable when it's convenient for *them?* That's objectively depraved. Of course it would be great to curb Putin and his regime directly, but how? If you have ideas, bring them. Railing against other people's efforts is just unhelpful and ugly.

    Posted by: JJ | Aug 28, 2013 8:25:53 PM

  21. Yes, Coke is a major Olympic Sponsor, but PepsiCo has a much deeper, more involved relationship with the Russian Government. If you want to Protest a Beverage Company that has long standing ties to Russia, you should be protesting PepsiCo.

    Posted by: Jack | Aug 28, 2013 8:38:59 PM

  22. @JJ: you honestly think Putin gives a damn about any protest in america? He has the majority of the Russian populace on his side with the legislation pushed through. All the companies associated with the IOC don't give a damn either, due to the fact that none of these boycotts and demonstrations are remotely effective enough to put even the smallest dent on their bottom line.

    The American Populace won't give a damn either because by next month they'll already moved on to something way more flashier and interesting to them in the news cycle.

    So yeah, I view all these "efforts" as useless and ineffective. I'd be more impressed to see people creating funds to help oppressed LGBT people in Russia safely seek asylum (you know, something that actually matters) in other countries- but gay america looooooves it's PR so much more, and has to focus on looking good while pouring liquids down the sewer on camera, because it's easier.

    Until then I'll ridicule all of these ridiculous photo ops. Especially while areas where gays are actually put to death BY LAW just for existing are largely ignored by America's LGBT community since they place less value on gays in countries full of brown people.

    Posted by: E.nigma | Aug 28, 2013 8:44:05 PM

  23. What littering media hoes....

    Posted by: Alan Brickman | Aug 28, 2013 8:46:41 PM

  24. My thinking is this: I'll stop buying Coke products. I'm just one person. But if others do the same it can make a difference. Will it help Russian LGBT people right now? Probably not. But if enough of us will refuse to support the Sochi Olympics advertisers now, the next time an international event takes place in Russia, advertisers will be less likely to fork over the mega bucks because they realize it's simply not profitable. Then the international events will begin avoiding such less friendly LGBT countries simply because they cannot make as much money. When Russia and similar countries stop getting these events, THEN it will begin helping our LGBT friends in these countries as they realize their hatred is costing them enormous international exposure.

    Posted by: Ed P. | Aug 28, 2013 9:10:52 PM

  25. LGBT Russians have asked for our support. They asked us to dump Russian vodka (and all Russian products for that matter) and, they've asked us to boycott the 2014 Winter Games. You can read their statement here in English and in Russian:

    Here's a quote from Masha Gessen, a prominent Russian LGBT journalist and activist, about the work we're doing in the U.S. in support of LGBT Russians:

    “We’re kind of past the point where silence can ever protect. At this point, the more Russians know and the Kremlin knows that the world is watching, the safer we feel on the ground.”

    And this:

    “One of the best moments of my time was when I was in my car 10 days ago in Moscow and I turned on the radio and they were talking about the vodka boycott on every radio station,” Gessen said. “That is getting media attention. It was really, really amazing, Suddenly we’d been granted visibility that we hadn’t had in years.”

    Regarding Vodka: To those folks that seem really upset that they are being asked to switch to another (non-Russian) brand of vodka (#firstworldproblems), please take a moment to think about what LGBT people in Russia are going through under Putin's anti-gay law. Ask yourself if switching brands is really all that difficult for you, keeping that in mind. Then continue to open your eyes and realize that the eyes of the world are now on Russia because of the Dump Russian Vodka Campaign, and that as a result, LGBT Russians know we have their backs!

    Regarding Coke: The Coca-Cola Company has already responded to our demands. You can read about that here:

    Finally, we not only cleaned up after our #DumpCoke protest, we recycled all the cans and bottles!

    Posted by: Queer Nation | Aug 28, 2013 9:11:08 PM

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