Coca-Cola Defends Arrest Of Russian LGBT Protester

Pavel Lebedev detained
A few days ago we showed you video of Russian LGBT activist Pavel Lebedev being arrested for unfurling the rainbow flag during the Olympic Torch Relay. What you may or may not have noticed was that on the official Olympic security guard's uniform were the Olympic rings and the Coca-Cola logo.

Yesterday the Coca-Cola company released an email statement and responded to the incident and their logo being associated with it in perhaps the worst way possible: by defending the arrest and fining of Lebedev. The statement said, in part:

As a Presenting Partner of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay, our logo appears on all of the uniforms for the staff assigned by the Sochi Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) to support the Torch Relay.

SOCOG reported that a spectator was prevented from breaching the security perimeter around the Torchbearer. The spectator was detained briefly by local police and was fined.

Not exactly a strong statement from a company who, in that exact same letter, said:

As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices. We do not condone human rights abuses, intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world.

Americablog has the full statement and a thorough rundown of what all this means for Coke.


  1. litper says

    No surprize, Coca-Cola officially sided with Russia’s fascist regime. I just hope that human rights organisations will take notice and strip Coke of it’s high equality indexes.

  2. Bill says

    Whether Coca Cola deserves any blame depends on why the guy was arrested, with what charges, and whether this was selective enforcement against LGBT advocates.

    One the pictures showed some white tape that I presume represents a barrier that spectators are not supposed to cross. If he went over it, removing him was reasonable as long as everyone else would be treated the same way.

    If he was charged with violating the anti-gay law, Coke should be publicly ridiculed for its statement. If it was a trespassing charge, and if the same charge would be applied for someone who hopped over the barrier to take a picture, then I’d give Coke a pass on it.

  3. I wont grow up says

    To use a terrible pun, it appears Coke is talking out of both sides of its bottle. They paid a whole pile of money for this and they’re not gonna let a bunch of us silly fags screw it up. Maybe we should switch to rum and diet Pepsi.

  4. cooley says

    More importantly – and to your point, Bill – the Americablog website reports that the protester was first moved back off the road, but spectators nearby began urging security to ask him what his flag stood for. Pavel refused to answer and a spectator said “Propaganda,” at which point he was detained.

  5. litper says

    The thing is, they don’t even get any benefit from supporting hate, instead of advertising their sponsorship on every corner they try to downplay it as much as possible. Just look at what happened when McDonalds actually tried to start pro-Sochi campaign – it quickly turned into a huge PR disaster. So at this point I can’t even get why they’re still sponsoring this?

  6. bestpartofboycotting says

    So Coca Cola has become another anti-gay Putin Russia mouth-piece. Why don’t political and corporate people realize that we can look these things up ourselves now and become aware of their lies and hypocricy? That baffles me.

    I’ve never been a Coca Cola drinker, but I’ve gotten the closest people to me to stop consuming it…

  7. Just Sayin' says

    Company that makes useless over-advertised over-priced product nobody should be ingesting in the first place says what and who cares ?

    Really, if you’re upset with this company over anything they say and not with the fact that they even exist in the first place, you’re an idiot.

  8. John says

    This is why all gay people – and all people who support equal rights of all peoples – must boycott all things Olympic. Do not watch the games and do not buy from the sponsors. And I think that this boycott should extend beyond the games as an apology after-the-fact is far too little and far too late.

  9. Thomas Cardellino says

    Coca Cola soda can remove paint from an automobile fender. People still drink this stuff? Not even Russian vodka can remove paint from an automobile, but the truly Russian varieties of vodka can help, through the taxes they pay to Mother Russia, remove civil liberties protection from millions of LGBTI Russian citizens who commit no crimes other than trying to live normal lives in the nation where they were born and raised, AND to which they have culturally contributed for centuries, no matter the passing government of the day. Shame on the newly freed from oppression Russian Orthodox Church for so quickly choosing another civically innocent group of their fellow citizens to persecute in order to raise their ungodly level of influence in Putin’s dictatorially corrupt regime!

  10. Rob says

    Typical PR handwaving on Coke’s part. They act like he was just trespassing and tried to breach a perimeter, and they ignore in their description that he is a gay rights activist. They do seem to rationalize and even justify his detention in the piece. Then they go on to say that it’s OK to be gay, much to my relief.

    I think people should hold Coke’s feet to the fire on this, and on all things Sochi. The Olympics are interesting and fun, but the reality is that people are being maimed and killed and there needs to be a dialogue about that. We can’t just look away.

  11. Tom says

    Coca Cola is disgustingly homophobic. They shouldn’t even be sponsoring the 2014 Hate Olympics. Now that I know they make Power Ade Zero, I won’t be buying that either.

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