Over 320,000 people have signed a petition calling on Coke to condemn Russia’s ‘draconian’ new laws on homosexuality ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
According to SumOfUs.org, the online campaign group organizing the petition , said top Coke executives will meet tomorrow to decide whether or not to comment on the Russian situation, since the company is an important Sochi sponsor as a ‘Worldwide Olympic Partner’.
Martin Caldwell, a UK-based campaigner for SumOfUs.org, told BeverageDaily.com: “Our understanding is that Coke is meeting on Thursday to decide whether to make a public statement. We also believe that Coke hasn’t said anything since the original [August 28] statement.”
‘Rising tide of anti-LGBT violence’
The petition – which gained 70,000 signatures in the last 24 hours alone – was mounted to oppose what organisers describe as a “rising tide of anti-LGBT violence and discrimination as a result of the country’s laws”.
Caldwell said Coke had historically shown a strong commitment to equality and human rights but needed to condemn what he said were “anti-gay laws” in Putin’s Russia.
“Coca-Cola is an incredibly important position of power and has the ability to influence both the International Olympic Committee and Russian leaders,” Joe Mirabella, director of communications for equality campaign platform All Out added.
“The safety and dignity of Russians, athletes, and fans is in doubt as long as Russia’s anti-gay laws are intact,” Mirabella added. “Olympic sponsors have a moral obligation to speak out now and demand an end to Putin’s human rights crackdown.”
Russia’s ban on the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors follows a July ban on gay and lesbian couples abroad – and unmarried individuals living in countries that permit same-sex marriages – adopting Russian-born children.
Carlsberg 'pleased' to be sponsoring Sochi
Opponents of the law allege it is drafted vaguely, and say it criminalizes parents telling kids that being gay is OK, and even prevents health officials giving information on safe same-sex intercourse.
Tourists and foreign nationals suspected by the police of being ‘pro gay’ can also be arrested and detained for up to 14 days.
Coke has remained silent over Sochi since August 28, and did not reply to a request for comment yesterday. In August the company insisted it was a “strong supporter” of the LGBT community and advocated for inclusion and diversity in its policies and practices.
Obliquely addressing controversy over its Sochi sponsorship, the firm said: “We believe a more positive impact can be made through continued involvement, rather than by sitting on the sidelines.”
Baltika Breweries is the ‘official beer supplier’ at Sochi and Carlsberg, became 100% owner of the Russian brewer last November. Asked for Carlsberg's position on the Russian government's stance, spokesman Ben Morton told BeverageDaily.com: “Carlsberg Group has breweries in over 30 countries across the globe. In each country in which we operate, we try and ensure that our local businesses become an active and responsible part of society.
“Our Russian business, Baltika Breweries, is pleased to be sponsoring the Sochi Olympics and will play its part in ensuring that this is a true sporting event enjoyed by all.”