Coke, Visa, McDonald’s blasted for sponsoring “officially anti-gay Olympics”

Quite a powerful editorial from Bloomberg, castigating the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for giving the patina of Olympic approval to Russia’s draconian anti-gay law.

But Bloomberg doesn’t stop there – they implicate some of the top Olympic sponsors in the anti-gay cover-up, including Coke, Visa and McDonald’s.  According to Bloomberg, these are now an “officially anti-gay Olympics,” and any company sponsoring the Olympics is sponsoring anti-gay hate.

We now have our hook for taking down Coke, Visa and McDonald’s.


As Bloomberg explains, it’s bad enough that Russia has enacted a law basically making it illegal to be out of the closet.  But then Russia decided the law was going to apply to gay (and gay-friendly) Olympians during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February.

Not only is being out of the closet illegal, but a straight person saying or doing anything that suggests that being out of the closet is okay, is now illegal as well.

But did Putin stop there?  Nope.

As of this past Friday, it is now a violation of Russian anti-terrorism laws to stage any kind of pro-gay protest, or even to simply hold a pro-gay meeting, in the Olympic town of Sochi.  That may likely mean that New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who has vowed to wear a rainbow pin during his Olympic competition, will be committing an act of terrorism by simply being proud of who he is.

Oh but it gets better.  As Bloomberg notes, the IOC has now puts its imprimatur on Russia’s anti-terrorist version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” suggesting, incredibly, that laws banning any positive mention of the word “gay” are non-discriminatory so long as the bigoted law is applied equally against gay and straight Olympic athletes.

Get it?  Russia is indiscriminate in applying its discriminatory law, so according to the IOC it’s not really discrimination.

Enough is enough.  I have to admit I was somewhat ambivalent about going after the Olympic sponsors as, to date, I hadn’t felt there was enough of a direct connection between the Olympics themselves and Russia’s horrific threats against those attending the Sochi games.  Last Friday, that all changed.

Coke, Visa and McDonald’s are now complicit in Russia’s de facto declaration that gay and lesbian Olympians are terrorists.  Thanks to the IOC, this is no longer Vladimir Putin’s war against the human rights of gay and trans people.  It is now the International Olympic Committee’s, as well as any company that sponsors this hate.

Do Coke, Visa and McDonald’s agree that, so long as Russia’s anti-gay laws apply to straight Olympians as well, the laws aren’t discriminatory?  If those sponsors agree, then you should never touch a Coke, use your Visa, or visit McDonald’s again.  And if they don’t agree, then why are they sponsoring an event that does?

That’s what Queer Nation will be asking in NYC this Wednesday, when they launch the first of many protests against the sponsors of Olympic homophobia, starting with Coke.


More from Bloomberg:

Now, the IOC should be telling Russia to revoke its anti-gay law in order to conform with the Olympic Charter and remain the host of the Winter Games. As the committee has so far shown no such inclination, sponsors of the Olympics and television networks that plan to cover the event ought to push. Otherwise, come February, they may find themselves in an embarrassing mess.

The Russians already have used their new law to deport Dutch filmmakers for trying to make a documentary about gay rights in Russia. If openly gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup talks about a boyfriend in an interview with NBC, will that crew be deported as well? To avoid the risk, will broadcasters evade the whole subject of homosexuality? That would make them complicit in Russia’s discriminatory policies.

Unless the IOC acts, sponsors such as Coca-Cola Co., McDonald’s Corp. and Visa Inc. will be tied to an officially anti-gay Olympics.

Coke, Visa, and McDonald’s – j’accuse.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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60 Responses to “Coke, Visa, McDonald’s blasted for sponsoring “officially anti-gay Olympics””

  1. dcinsider says:

    It occurred to me that China is not very supportive of gay rights if I recall correctly. I don’t know if they have any draconian laws like Russia, or have ever gone after gays, but we never made a peep about China that I recall. Just curious if anyone remembers or has knowledge about China’s policies.

  2. Nathanael says:

    “unless the whole idea of Olympic sponsorship grows so toxic that no corp would dare touch it.”

    It’s heading that way. No new sponsors will touch the hate-filled, disggustic slime of the Olympics this year, certainly.

  3. Nathanael says:

    Actually, big multinationals are VERY responsive to boycotts. Small companies usually aren’t.

  4. A. L. G. says:

    The president’s usual tactic is to say high sounding words, then do nothing.

  5. Anon says:

    Huh. This law acts only for child. I wrote about education of society. You know russian history? About USSR for example? If people will start, it won’t be education like school or something, it must be like morality in all parts of society, this education must be like hammer in people’s heads. Oh. It’s only utopia, because of russian government, but if we have new revolution, and new leader will be agree with LGBT, that’s how it will be.

    You can ask me “why you can’t just legalize it?”, and the answer will “Because our history (impact) and church block it “.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I may ask tomorrow… For now I’m going to bed, it’s late where I am :) Glad I could help you!

  7. Anon says:

    Wow, it’s amazing! Big thanks for your answer! It’s realy important for me!
    Now, you can ask me for everything!

  8. Jose Soto says:

    ” If you want to help our gay/lesb (or whom) just educate russian people that is normal to be bi (lol)”

    Isn’t that already AGAINST THE LAW to educate anybody on LGBT anything? Isn’t that the reason WHY we Americans are calling for a boycott so that this law can be repealed and hence we can start educating?

  9. glad they’re feeling the heat! join us in making sure that all corporations feel pressure to stand up for gay rights before Sochi

  10. Anonymous says:

    1. Snowden is not a big deal to American people. The President wants Snowden, he broke an important law, and he’s a threat to US security. But the Russian media is trying to scare you all and make it look like there’s going to be a war. Some people are angry about Russia giving him asylum, but not as many as people who disagree with their anti-gay laws, Pussy Riot, etc. A lot of people here actually agree with him, because he exposed the NSA scandal, which we didn’t know about.

    2. Here in the US the real scientists, not the ones Russia invites, know that pedophilia is not like being gay. Being gay is not officially a mental disorder in the US, and studies support that. Pedophilia is seen as an incurable perversion. People who commit these crimes are given long sentences in jail. If they get out, they have to inform people they are a sex offender. Look up Jerry Sandusky for an example of a pedophile’s trial. Was that your question?

    3. Lol :) Actually people make jokes like that a lot about Russia. Sorry, guys! We don’t really think that’s all that goes on, but we love pointing out your bears, vodka, and villagers :) Here is an example:

    And here is a joke about Americans, who are usually seen as ignorant, by an American. And it’s kind of true for some of us ;)

  11. Anon says:

    Maybe. I realy hope that will true, not only “maybe”. Oh, in Russian TV, practically every day we have news about Snowden, something like “Angry USA! Scandal with Snowden!”, sometimes i scare that it will go bad, and that’s why i wrote about openly feud, please don’t think that i’m fool, huh.

    Hahahaha. Everybody know it! Now, government corruption (or steal money) is normal. I don’t think it work! Hahaha.

    Hmmm, do you know about incident (in Russia) when LGBT-activist unfurled rainbow flag on the Dvortsovaya Square (one of the main squares in the Saint-Petersburg) during the celebration of the VDV (part of russian army)? Another dreadful action in Russian treasury.

    And that’s my question:
    1. I wrote about Snowden, in Russia it’s very popular theme right now, what is the real opinion of this situation have american people?
    2. How about pedophilia? What’s your (american and homosexual) opinion?

    And, very foolish question:
    3. Sometimes, we like joke (me, my friends) that outside Russia, people think that we ride the bear, constantly drink vodka, have nuclear weapon in house and etc. What’s the truth? Have you the same jokes (about your country, or about Russia)?

    And yes, i must do it, “sorry for my English, and for my mistakes”.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hey, yes you can ask me question…or several. Just ask :)

    Maybe if there is international media attention on Russia, we can focus on your leaders’ scandals? Maybe we can change the topic from gays to the government corruption in Russia. I don’t think the US leaders will fight with Russian ones. I just wonder if it will make a difference if people outside Russia know about how they steal money, manipulate voting, and so on?

  13. Anon says:

    What do you mean? Is it like “we don’t give Russia money and then they will surrender”? Huh, i assure it won’t work. First, in Russia it will look like “Look! Because of those stupid fag we haven’t money! Let’s start cure them!”, sorry, but most probably it will make situation more bad. Oh, but maybe you are right, nobody know what will happen. But the one i know exactly – if Russia and USA start feud openly, it will terrible.

    When start Olympics, i think, Russia take care of the information to the media, i mean ALL information. Huh.

    Can i ask you a question?

  14. Anonymous says:

    The only way Americans feel they can help is to put financial pressure on Russia. Money is usually what politicians care about in the US, honestly. Maybe it will not do anything, but you never know. The Olympics is a good opportunity for that. We want to make a statement while the media is focused on Russia. They are making it hard to protest in Russia, so maybe we can send the message from other countries…
    It is really unfortunate that the laws will probably happen, according to Russians…

  15. Anon (Анон) says:

    Hahaha. No one. In Russia, we haven’t any group to help, finally it’s shameful to help LGBT. I can’t post, just because we haven’t any organization. That is Russia problem, like a no way. Of course, a lot of people understand that problem, but you know, in country where want to “cure” homo, it’s hard to do something.

    It’s Russia, it’s meaning that we will have more crazy laws. We have a very difficult period in policy and i think, a lot of crazy-stupid laws will come. Sad, but true. And it’s not only LGBT theme, it’s affect all areas of life.

  16. perljammer says:

    I think that if Obama ordered an American boycott of the Olympics (like Carter did in 1980), NBC would very likely do exactly what they did in 1980, which was to drop all but the most superficial “highlight reel” coverage. And that would also have a compounding effect on commercial sponsorship.

    But we’ll never know, because Obama doesn’t have the stones for taking that kind of action.

  17. runfastandwin says:

    No, but we should demand it anyway.

  18. runfastandwin says:

    Exactly. NBC, do the right thing and pull out of Sochi. There’s still time to use another venue, Vancouver, Torino, heck even Salt Lake City could probably pull it off (although the Mormons only WISH they could get away with passing those laws)…

  19. perljammer says:

    The problem facing the corporate sponsors is not a simple one. Coke, Visa, and McDonalds have been Olympic sponsors for a long time. If they pull their sponsorship now, they run the risk of losing it forever, unless the whole idea of Olympic sponsorship grows so toxic that no corp would dare touch it. Personally, I’m afraid that other companies would be lining up to throw money at the IOC for the opportunity to displace Coke, Visa, and McDonalds as the perennial big sponsors of the Olympics.

    The only way Coke, Visa, and McDonalds can disappear visually from Sochi without losing their perennial Olympic sponsorship is to pull their ads but leave their money, thus providing sponsorship without appearing to do so. That’s not likely to play well with the critics.

    Acting in a morally responsible manner is sort of like getting old — it ain’t for sissies.

  20. Anonymous says:

    You think NBC is going to do that? Ha. They are also a news outlet…they’re already covering up the truth of the story.

  21. runfastandwin says:

    NBC needs to get the IOC to move it to another city, or, cancel the contract with the IOC to televise. Pressure on McDonalds and Coke and Visa won’t do anything.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Too bad, we now live in a highly commercialized world where only money matters. Athletes also want a return on their “investment” much like the IOC.

  23. Anonymous says:

    So what are the groups in Russia that are helping gay people? And educating others? Can you post information about them?
    In the US there are the same kinds of people who use gays, etc. as a political pawn. But they aren’t proposing such crazy laws. Do you think those extreme laws in Russia will happen?

  24. Anon says:

    Lol. I live in Russia, i was born in Russia and this information sounds funny for me (and a bit of stupid, yeah). Guys (Gays, yeah), do you really think that our “bad” law about LGBT really mean that Russia (Russia’s politicians) hatedon’t love gay? They aren’t care about you! It’s just diversion for russian people. We have a lot of real problem, start for child born finish by human death. And all this stuff only for filling russian head. Oh, lol. Stop be like ‘stupid b*tch’ and stop ignore Olympiad, Coke and Visa (or what you want to ignore). It’s very strange that AMERICAN (GUYS WHO DON’T LIVE IN DISCUSSED COUNTRY) take to heart our law(s) or can discuss about it. YOU don’t live here. MANY OF YOU know NOTHING about Russia. If you want to help our gay/lesb (or whom) just educate russian people that is normal to be bi (lol). And yes, i’m bi, my first kiss was with girl (who bi too). My best friend (like a sister, seriously) are lesb, many people in our work think that we are lesb, and you know? It’s nothing. Yeah, it’s realy doesn’t matter. Start to HELP us (if you want to help our LGBT community), not ignore or just sit here and grumble of our politics, and i think it’s the most important, because our people who understood “wrong” their nature need your help. If you have a question, just ask me, but i think, i said a lot .

  25. ArthurH says:

    Well I wanted to go on a diet any way.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Coke owns many brand names, which do generate huge profits for the company. You definitely drink some of their products.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I like this thought. Expose McD’s and Coca-Cola (and all its products) for the low-quality, child labor crap it is, and people will boycott it. Conveniently time it with their complacent support of the Olympics, a similar farce.

  28. lynchie says:

    Winning a medal means what exactly? More money, wheaties box, coverage in Sports Illustrated? Are human rights out trumped by the ability to jump higher, or run faster? You forget the Olympic charter is about far play and human rights. The Olympics sadly are about the almighty dollar. We have so lost focus on what is important and to not accept the old bullshit about the athletes training. Hockey players in the Olympics are all professional if they didn’t have the games they would play in the NHL or KHL or whatever. No we need to put pressure on the companies and see if O’Highness has the balls to actually do something and not just give a great speech and sound decisive. I for one have had enough of speeches without action by Obama, Holder, Reid, Pelosi the whole crew of asswipes who claim to represent all Americans not just the ones they like today.

  29. dcinsider says:

    If I thought it might work I’d be all in, but I simply don;t see it as successful. That being said, have at it! I would LOVE for you guys to prove me wrong on this.

  30. HolyMoly says:

    Denying athletes to compete in a GAME when there are other more important things to consider, such as human rights abuses. Sorry, but the Olympics is just one big GAME, and any athlete who thinks being able to compete is far more important than the other, much more important issues surrounding it, needs to have his head checked. (It’d be nice if they work their whole life towards human rights, education, the eradication of one disease or another, instead of how far they can throw a steel ball, but as it is they can still use their celebrity status as a platform whereby they can take a moral stand and speak out.)

    Many sports fans have much the same sick mentality. “So what if a star athlete is caught up in illegal dog-fighting? So what if some other hundred or so athletes are caught using performance-enhancing drugs, or just plain old drugs? So what if some athlete beats his wife soundly and then puts her to bed? They are entertaining to watch, and that is far more important than the crimes they committed. Give them a pass.” Except in this case, it’d sound more like this: “So what if we see an increasingly violent pogrom unfolding before our eyes? Russia’s going to give us some entertaining games to watch, so let’s not rock that boat.”

    At some point we have to put our toys away and deal with some real issues. We can always play games AFTER we’ve dealt with them.

  31. BeccaM says:

    Now we’re talking.

  32. cole3244 says:

    civil disobedience, create waves, be seen and heard, but no violence under any circumstances, please.

  33. perljammer says:

    Depends on what you mean my making a difference, I supposed. In 1980, quite a few countries joined the boycott. And in 1984, the Soviets cut off their nose to spite their face by declining to attend the Summer Games (in Los Angeles, I believe). That looks like a difference to me, but your mileage may vary.

  34. Skeptical Cicada says:

    What might work, however, is drawing attention to their complicity, besmirching their sponsorship, and embarrassing them. Boycotts aren’t just about inflicting direct economic pressure by removing support.

  35. emjayay says:

    Yeah sure…where’s the miles and cashback bonuses, dammit?

  36. emjayay says:

    The way the anti-Russia/Russian Olympics issue is moving and spreading no doubt has all these companies pretty worried and having lots of meetings at all levels. The PR departments have been working overtime already. As Adam Smith will gladly explain, any company has really one single purpose, to maximize profits. If the direction of world opinion keeps moving the direction it already is, they have to do something, and something big the PR department can’t fix. If all the commercials and associations put the idea “Coke…bad” in people’s heads, it’s the opposite of what they are spending millions for.

  37. emjayay says:

    Denying athletes the opportunity to win the medals and recognition they have been working their whole life for was a mistake and it didn’t make any difference anyway. All the alternate avenues being now pursued are much better and already working in many ways.

  38. bandanajack says:

    just make noise… letters to the editor, letters to congressmen, letters to public relations departments of all involved, phone calls, do them all. john aravosis leveraged campaigns like this several times. remember what happened to glenn beck when his sponsors packed up.

  39. bandanajack says:

    if we make enough noise past history TELLS us what they will do. they will stall and piss and moan, say they can’t do anything, and then they will buckle, or bring enough pressure to bear on russia to get concessions. (and i hope they will return home with half again as many “support staff” and “technicians” as they came with…

  40. bandanajack says:

    just like the old days, john. walk loudly and carry a big assed stick!

  41. Soul Dancer says:

    To connect with IOC’s “global partners” I posted this article to include links to each companies ‘contact’ page . . .

    every letter counts. Every purchase counts!

  42. Bill_Perdue says:

    Which is why I called it another issue. Mentioning other other issues can help make the primary point and they do not dilute the primary emphasis on the homophobia of NBC or the the homophobic pandering of Coke, McDonalds, etc.

  43. HolyMoly says:

    I could be wrong, but if you use the “debit” function instead of “credit,” I don’t think Visa gets any of the action. You could always just make an ATM withdrawal and then use cash. That way the NSA doesn’t get any of the action either!

  44. fritzrth says:

    All of the sponsors.

  45. fritzrth says:

    Are we incapable of “not doing” more than one thing at a time? Why rule out any action, however small, or ineffective it may be on its own. In conjunction with other actions, however, even the smallest starts to be felt. Cliche: the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  46. MichaelS says:

    Ummm… Why not NBC as well, the biggest enabler of them all in this Olympic travesty?

  47. dcinsider says:

    Boycotting the sponsors is simply not going to work. It is one thing to dump Russian Vodka, it is quite another to have a successful boycott against multinational corporations who won’t feel it. The best boycott is to not watch the Olympics. In other words, see if you can get folks to simply not turn on the Winter Olympics.

    I am not watching a single event. There are a lot of things I love about the Olympics, but I’m not giving them rating points. I suggest we all pledge to do that.

  48. Skeptical Cicada says:

    That’s an important issue, but it’s not a gay issue. The focus should be on corporate complicity in Russia’s repression of gays. Adding other issues dilutes the message. An undifferentiated mass of unrelated complaints with no clear focus is what doomed the Occupy movement.

  49. fritzrth says:

    This is about much more than just the draconian laws. It’s about the safety and lives of Russian gay and bi men and women and transexuals. The Russian government is enabling and abetting the kidnapping, torture and murder of these people by neo-Nazi and Orthodox gangs. Their own police and military are joining in as well.

    The IOC, every national olympic committee, every company and corporate sponsor of the winter olympics is Sochi, not only gives aid and support to Vladimir Putin’s pogrom, but has the blood of every one of the victims on their hands.

  50. perljammer says:

    President Carter ordered a US boycott of the 1980 Summer Games to be held in Moscow, in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afganistan. NBC cancelled its coverage of the Games (though it did air some highlights and recaps). Not sure what the major US Olympic sponsors with respect to the boycott.

    The point is, our current President could man up and do the same thing Carter did. That would also provide the perfect cover for US sponsors to withdraw. But it’s just not his style to be so, y’know, bold and decisive. More comfortable for him to make a few public statements decrying the situation, and leave the taking of action to other parties.

  51. ARP says:

    My guess is that they elected to sponsor the Olympics probably long before these laws (I have a TINY TINY bit of sympathy for that). Perhaps they have an out, but I suspect now. Now, they’re stuck in a lose-lose: either losing a lot of money or having their reputations associated with this Olympics. I know what I would do (and what we all want them to do), but to them its obviously, a lot more calculated than that. Will the positive outweigh the negative, especially on an international scale? Sadly, my guess is yes, its worth it to them. But its our job to tip that balance.

  52. kevinbgoode says:

    An interesting editorial in the Canadian Globe and Mail blasts the IOC for not publicly admonishing the anti-gay Russian law. While the paper still seems to be against a boycott, they seem to be increasingly pointing fingers at the IOC for not standing up to Russia:

    As for these corporate sponsors – their silence in the face of brutal attacks on gay Russian citizens will be something remembered for decades after the Olympics.

  53. lilyannerose says:

    Time for an international boycott of the Olympics!

  54. Bill_Perdue says:

    Another reason to go after McDonalds is that they continue to market junk food to children. and they’ll be ruining the health of athletes and other people at Sochi.

  55. lynchie says:

    Because of the time delay, I can see NBC and that gonad Costas simply removing anything that would be a reference to anything that would upset the Russians. Costas never one to pass a microphone sure wouldn’t be doing his in depth, down home, personal interview with the New Zealand speed skater. Let’s face it the games are now a reality show with little actual coverage of the events except figure skating, hockey skiing. The IOC has even removed wrestling (which was the first event in the original Olympics) from the summer games. We should decide to watch the Kardashians especially with Lamar now on a 3 day crack bender, Kim and Kanye getting their gold toilets installed and Courtney pregnant again. Now that makes anything Costas covers pale by comparison.

  56. Strepsi says:

    It really doesn’t matter about the $ they lose if you stop (or never did) — these are huge companies. What matters is the brand value, and reputation, so it’s the speaking out, and demonstrating, and letter (email) writing and social posting that will make the difference. Just as with Stoli, it’s the PR and public attention that is important.

  57. Bill_Perdue says:

    “Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC broadcast network reached $2.1 billion in advertising commitments for the TV season starting in September, about 17 percent more than a year earlier, a person with knowledge of the contracts said.

    The commitments amount to more than 80 percent of NBC’s ad inventory for the season, said the person, who sought anonymity because the contracts are private. Ad rates on average rose 7 percent to 8 percent from a year ago, the person said.

    For the first time, NBC’s so-called upfront advertising commitments were negotiated alongside sister cable networks, including USA, the person said. The company airs the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, from Feb. 6 to Feb. 23 on NBC and several of its cable outlets.”

    Boycott and divest from the Putin panderers at NBC/Comcast/MSNBC. “Human Rights
    Watch (HRW) notes that before Sochi was chosen for the 2014 games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other stakeholders, including American multinational sponsors of the Winter Olympics, as well as NBC Universal, which has the broadcast contract, carefully tracked the path of the legislation… .” via JMG

  58. goulo says:

    Buying stuff with cash is better from a security and privacy point of view anyway… :)

  59. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Obviously, it would make sense to boycott the sponsors, but I already don’t drink coke or go to McDonald’s. That leaves Visa which I can avoid using as a credit card, but my debit card is Visa. Not using it will take a whole lot of adjustment.

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