LGBT Activists Protest Coke’s Sponsorship of Olympics in Russia

It started with Stoli, now it’s on to the next brand.

Shortly after announcing a boycott of Stolichnaya Vodka, LGBT organizations and activists dumped Coca-Cola onto the streets of New York’s Times Square Wednesday to protest the soda giant’s sponsorship of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

The dissenters, who also trampled cans and bottles, have charged The Coca-Cola, Inc., with sponsoring hate.

“By sponsoring the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Coca-Cola is associating its brands with state-sanctioned gay-bashing,” said Alan Klein, co-founder of Queer Nation, an LGBT rights organization that helped orchestrate the demonstration. “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.”

For those with their heads firmly stuck in sand, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed legislation in June that outlaws “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” Stories of anti-gay hate crimes in Russia have begun to surface more frequently as well.

In a press release, Queer Nation issued a list of demands to Coke. The demands are as follows:

  • Withdraw sponsorship from the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, 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 LGBT employment policies on its Russian website in Russian and on 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 owned and operated facilities worldwide
  • Require all Coca-Cola bottles, distributors and vendors to implement LGBT employment policies as a condition of their contract with Coca-Cola

Coke responded yesterday with a press release of its own, stating that the company values and celebrates 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.”

Coke also cited its belief in the Olympics as “a force for good” and its long-standing anti-discrimination policies.

Coke’s full press release is below.

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.

As an Olympic sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people through a common interest in sports, and we have seen firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy they leave on every community that has been a host.

We support the core values of the Olympic Movement – excellence, friendship and respect – and are proud to continue our role in helping to make the Olympics a memorable experience for athletes, fans and communities all around the world. We are engaging with the International Olympic Committee on this important matter.

We believe a more positive impact can be made through continued involvement, rather than by sitting on the sidelines.

Our actions and policies demonstrating our support for the LGBT community include the following:

  • We have a long-standing HR policy protecting our employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

  • We have a Global Mutual Respect Policy that sets out our expectations for how employees should treat one another as well as anyone they interact with as a representative of the Company.  The policy outlines our commitment to valuing diversity and inclusion and providing a workplace free of discrimination or  harassment. You can read more about this at:

  • We have scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index every year since it was launched in 2006.

  • We have had an LGBT Business Resource Group at the Company for 13 years that is funded and supported through the Chief Diversity Officer’s department.

  • We were one of the first companies in the U.S. to publicly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect employees from discrimination due to sexual orientation.

  • We have provided financial support and significant Company presence to several LGBT events over the past several years, including numerous Pride festivals and parades across the country.

  • Our Global Supplier Diversity team participates in outreach events such as the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Awards Dinner, the NGLCC Business and Leadership Conference, and the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Corporate Sponsors Reception.

We will continue to promote our values for diversity and tolerance around the world through our policies and actions.