4 days later, no word from Coke on why it sponsored Olympic gay arrest

It’s been four days since Coca-Cola-sponsored Olympic security, apparently sporting the Coke logo, roughed up and arrested a gay Russian human rights advocate for simply waving a rainbow flag along the parade route of the Olympic flame.  And still no statement from Coca-Cola explaining their complicity in the attack.

Pavel Lebedev was simply waving a small rainbow flag along the parade route, in his hometown of Voronezh, Russia, when Coca-Cola-sponsored security jumped him for exercising his freedom of speech and voicing his support for human rights.

As we’d reported earlier, Olympic security, in blue uniforms (see photos below), wore only a select few corporate logos on their uniforms, one of which was the Coke logo, either on their pant leg and/or their coat/hoodie.

At the time of our reporting, while all the other “blue” Olympic flame security were wearing the Coke logo (in the photos we could find), only part of the logo was visible on the man who assaulted the gay rights advocate. I’ve since communicated with a gay rights group in the region that assures me that all of the blue Olympic flame security were wearing the same logos, and that the assaulter must have been wearing the Coke logo, just like every other blue Olympic flame security agent.

coca-cola-olympics-1coke-logo-olympics-gay-arrestIn an effort to look into just how ubiquitous Coca-Cola’s branding was in the anti-gay attack, I also obtained additional photos from Pavel Lebedev’s friends in Russia, who smartly photographed the entire arrest, and it’s astonishing the degree to which Coke’s branding was everywhere in the photos of the attack.  See below.

This is truly one of the biggest corporate branding blunders in American history.

coke-11

coke-2 coke-4 coke-5 coke-6 coke-3 coke-8 coke-9 coke-10

Coke has a lot of explaining to do. For example:

1. Why would Coca-Cola sponsor Olympic security officers to begin with?

Coke knows that the job of security is to rough people up. And in this case, Coke surely knew that there was a very good chance that its sponsored-security-personnel would be roughing up gay civil rights activists. So why did Coke permit its logo to be placed on Olympic security personnel?

2. And just as importantly, how many gay people need to get beaten up by Coke-sponsored security before Coca-Cola removes its branding from these thugs?

Has Coca-Cola asked the Russians to remove its branding from the security uniforms?  And will Coca-Cola return any money it made from the gay-bashing security personnel wearing the Coke logo?

I can write about this every day.  At some point, Coke needs to come clean.


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • Steve

    I will not eat at McDonald’s or purchase coca cola products and encourage everyone to do the same.

  • David

    Great attempt at “guilt by association” John Aravosis! Tie in Coke a Cola, a company sponsor of the Winter Olympics to the creation of the Russian security forces. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other! But good for you in earning your keep around here.

  • John

    Gee, a company sponsoring a sporting event, thats news! How dare they be sponsoring anything and putting their brand out there. They did nothing wrong in this situation, they have no right to be boycotted because of this. These are Russian security officials wearing Coca Cola tags that signify they are part of the olympic staff and nothing more. Coca-Cola sponsors the Olympics and wants their name out there just like other companies, they didnt specifically create a security force to keep down the LGBT community. With this, this man also knew what he was doing, he was warned and he had happen to him what the government said would happen. Russia is not America and it is not our place to shove our beliefs down there throats, isnt that the basis of liberalism is having people coming to terms through their own means and not through force. Russia may have issues but those people agree to live there and if that is what they want to support then so be it. To each their own has been a tantamount slogan for the LGBT community, so why is it so hard for certain people to accept that maybe someone else may not support LGBT. It is not bigotry, it is personal opinion, just as it is yours to support the gay community.

  • Nathanael

    I drink microbrew root beers and freshly-squeezed lemonade, but that’s it. Megacorps mostly behave badly.

  • JG

    What’s missing from Coke’s story is the reality -> there was a “tug of war” between the officer and the rainbow flag holder. The flag display was the clear problem in this situation per the video. Not the rope barrier.

  • BillFromDover

    I sent an email to their website stating Your product tastes like piss and received the following response:

    “Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

    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 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.

    We support the ideals of the Olympics 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.

    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.

    We hope this information is helpful and encourage you to contact us again should you have additional comments or questions.

    Jeffrey C
    Industry and Consumer Affairs
    The Coca-Cola Company”

    Did somebody there press the wrong button?

  • tamarz

    an experiment. Just posted this article on the Coca-Cola facebook page. Right below my post are a couple of racist posts. Let’s see which they’re faster to remove.

  • Savage8862

    Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company. We appreciate the
    opportunity to respond.

    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 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.

    We support the ideals of the Olympics 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.

    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.

    We hope this information is helpful and encourage you to contact us again
    should you have additional comments or questions.

    Jeffrey C

    Industry and Consumer Affairs

    The Coca-Cola Company

    Please use the record number below should you have additional questions.

  • JG

    Response from Coca-Cola from an email inquiry I sent through their site:

    “Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Gooch. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

    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 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.

    We support the ideals of the Olympics 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.

    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.

    We hope this information is helpful and encourage you to contact us again should you have additional comments or questions.

    Jeffrey C
    Industry and Consumer Affairs
    The Coca-Cola Company”

  • RCChicago

    Thanks. I wrote.

  • JG

    I sent an email inquiry through their website, and received the following response:

    Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Gooch. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

    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 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.

    We support the ideals of the Olympics 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.

    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.

    We hope this information is helpful and encourage you to contact us again should you have additional comments or questions.

    Jeffrey C
    Industry and Consumer Affairs
    The Coca-Cola Company”

  • tamarz

    I’ve always preferred Diet Coke to Pepsi but I think this is a good time to go off all soda products (other than sparkling water).

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    COKE, the hate that refreshes.

  • chris10858

    Just another reason I like to only drink Pepsi products. :)

  • Matt Rogers

    Their logo on security staffers who assault gay people gives the lie to their lofty claims of cooperation and understanding.

  • Lawerence Collins

    I’m so glad I stopped drinking all sodas decades ago! It really is all about the money… So sad!

  • pappyvet

    Why? Money ,lots of it. Nothing to these people is as important. Not decency , not sanity ,not courage.
    Nothing.

  • NoBigGovDuh

    Oh btw, the person who took the pics is a very nice young gay man in Russia. He doesn’t speak English unfortunately, thank Google for translate.

  • NoBigGovDuh

    Looks like brand policing homophobic style.

    BRING ON THE MEME’S

  • Savage8862

    Of course you can. That is why I made the post.

  • LanceThruster

    Wow! I guess they really think any publicity *is* good publicity.

  • Chr477

    Coke said that they feel they can “DO MORE” by being “INVOLVED” with the Olympics than being on the side line. Now we see Coke on the front lines of human rights violations.
    I would LOVE and explanation.

    Please continue this name and shame John. History needs it’s examples. Coke actively and willfully CHOSE it’s role in being this example. Let them have it.

  • Drew2u

    It’s sort of telling that it looks like they respond within the same day for all the other posts and almost every single other post has a reply from Coke.

  • 4th Turning

    A jingle from the past. Clearly coke is in the world’s dna by now.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2msbfN81Gm0
    And links to wiki’s endless list of coke products-it makes something called “bimbo” down in Peru?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Coca-Cola_brands
    http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/21344/000119312508041768/dex211.htm

  • ComradeRutherford

    “We are sorry if any disease-ridden fags were insulted by our support of gay bashing in Russia.”

  • 4th Turning

    I definitely need another tutorial on how to post an entire youtube vid, but in the meantime here’s
    an interesting jingle from the past (back when cigarettes were safe when taken as directed-may
    be mixing up my ref. It’s all running together these days.)
    Clearly coke branding is in our dna now.

    Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2msbfN81Gm0

    Also putting up wiki’s endless list of products-coke owns “bimbo” down in Peru-and it’s
    list of coke subsidiaries.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Coca-

    http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/21344/000119312508041768/dex211.htm

  • Jessica J. Castillo

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  • teddy partridge

    Here’s Coke’s Facebook page, if anyone wants to ask these questions. I have.

  • SomeYankInRio

    they’re slipping or testing the waters. Last week I posted a question on their site

    http://www.coca-colacompany.com/our-company/human-workplace-rights

    It was never approved so not posted. I went back a few hours ago and asked again and it looks like the comment posted with no interference.

    Not sure how long it’ll stay up but it’s another path to their media folks

  • RCChicago

    Can you share where you sent this to? Would like to write as well.

  • jomicur

    They’re pretty clearly waiting to see if this story gains any traction before saying a word. If it goes ,mainstream, I’m sure they’ve got a non-apology apology already prepared. If the story is confined to the gay blogosphere, they’re stay silent and count their rubles.

  • jomicur

    At least you got something from them. I’ve emailed them three times and haven’t even got a formula, “thank you for your interest” kind of response.

  • Thom Allen

    Savage, May I copy this and send it off to Coke and the other Olympic sponsors? Maybe also post on their FB pages, too.

  • Thom Allen

    I emailed Coke about it’s sponsorship of the Russian Repression Olympics a couple of times a few months ago. I asked them why they’d sponsor the Games in light of Russia’s laws, rampant homophobia, beatings and bigotry. I got some polite non-answers like “Coke is trying to support understanding through international cooperation and fellowship through sporting events . . . ” basically ignoring the discrimination and hate and trying to sound that the Olympics would bring about understanding through Coke’s efforts, of course. Clearly, it’s a matter of revenue for them. Money trumps morals. I also emailed McDonald’s, Visa and the other corp sponsors. If I got any replies they were clones of Coke’s.

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  • Strepsi

    Love it.

  • Savage8862

    Sent this to Coca-Cola:

    I would like to know when your company will disavow your Olympic security detail roughing up a Russian Human Rights activist along the Olympic flame parade route? Olympic security guards sporting the Coca-Cola logo on their uniforms were photographed and filmed beating up the activist as he waved the rainbow flag – the distinctive colors of the GLBT community yet after four days, still no comment form your company.

    Do you support the anti-gay policies of the Russian Government? Do you support the “roughing up” of activists protesting those anti-gay policies? Is your company anti-gay? If the answers are no to all of the questions, then you must release a statement condemning the Coca-Cola sponsored Olympic Security Guards’ actions and you MUST pull sponsorship from the Russian Olympics. I eagerly await your response.

  • Indigo

    Proud sponsors of cocacolanización around the world.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Because Coca Cola is hoping no one will notice. If they stay silent no one will notice.

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