Coke lies about Russians exempting Olympians from anti-gay law

Coca-Cola, a proud sponsor of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, either lied to Buzzfeed this week, or their spokeswoman, and their CEO, didn’t even bother to find out the truth about Russia’s draconian crackdown on gay and trans people in that country, before talking to the press.

Coke spokeswoman Kate Harman claimed, incredibly, that Russia has promised not to apply its anti-gay law to Olympic athletes, guests and media attending the Sochi Games.

That’s flat out untrue.

Coke lies about Russians exempting Olympians from anti-gay law

The most recent statement we’ve had from “the highest level of the government in Russia” is that the anti-“gay propaganda” law will apply to Olympic athletes, guests and media in Sochi.  This came from the Russian Interior Ministry – the folks responsible for arresting dissidents – a day before Coke claimed Sochi-attendees would be exempt from the law.

Coke might want to change that caption from "Proud Partner" to "Proud Just Friends."

Coke might want to change that caption from “Proud Partner” to “Proud Just Friends.”

You’ll note that in every statement the Russians make about the anti-gay law, they first claim the law won’t be used against Olympians, then add “unless Olympians violate it.”  That’s like saying we won’t throw you in a gulag, unless we do.

Coke either didn’t do its homework, or is outright attempting to deceive its customers and the LGBT community. Here’s what Coke incredibly claimed to Buzzfeed:

When asked about the risks the new law poses to LGBT Coca-Cola employees who travel to Russia for the Olympics, Hartman said that “the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games.”

Check again.

Coke adds that it was a proud sponsor of Hitler’s Olympics

Coke’s Harman added that Coke was a proud sponsor of the Olympics sine 1928, meaning Coke was also a proud sponsor of Hitler’s Olympics in 1936 Berlin.

Then, even more disturbingly, Harman noted the “positive impact” and “long-lasting legacy” all the Olympics, including the Nazi Olympics, left on their host, including, per se, Hitler:

“As a 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,” she added. [emphasis added]

Yes, the world remembers with a tear in its eye how things got so much better in Hitler’s Germany after 1936.

But let’s take Coke at its word.  Every host was left with a long-lasting legacy and positive impact from the Olympics.  So, what was the “positive impact” and “long-lasting legacy” that Coke thinks the Olympics left on Hitler?

Is Coke seriously now claiming that things would have been worse under Hitler from 1936 to the end of World War II had we not held the Olympics in Germany, and had Coke not been a proud sponsor of the Hitler Games?  How exactly could Hitler have been worse?  By banning American soft drinks at Dachau?

The Jesse Owens thing was nice, but for Coke to claim that Jesse Owens left a “positive impact” and a “long-lasting legacy” on Adolf Hitler is patently absurd.

Coke should tell us more about the “long-lasting legacy” of “positive impact” the 1936 Olympics had on Hitler

We saw what happened after 1936. Hitler invaded everyone and then put up to 20 million people to death.  The Soviets alone lost an additional 20 million+ in the battle against Hitler, not to mention the millions lost by the allies, Eastern Europe and more.

Tell us again about the “long-lasting” “positive impact” the Olympics had on Hitler, Coke.

Maybe Coke got its information about post-1936 Nazi Germany from the same person who told them the Russian anti-gay law was temporarily put on hold.

If I were an LGBT – or LGBT-friendly – Coke employee, I’d be hopping mad that my PR department just lied about the risks Coke’s staff face at the Sochi Olympics.

And here’s what’s worse.  If anyone attends the Sochi Olympics, especially a Coke employee, and now gets arrested under Russia’s anti-gay, they’ll have a detrimental reliance, and negligence, legal claim against Coke.

After all, Coca-Cola just told the world that Russia’s anti-gay law has been suspended – you can protest up a storm at Sochi, and no one will touch you!  So go to Sochi, protest your little heart out, and if anyone touches you, sue Coke’s ass off.

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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