AT&T Protests Russia’s Anti-LGBT Law, but Will Other Olympic Sponsors Follow?
AT&T made some headlines this week by issuing a statement condemning a Russian “homosexual propaganda” law that vastly limits the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society,” AT&T said in a blog post.
The statement was noteworthy given AT&T’s longstanding sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic team. Various LGBT rights groups have been lobbying Olympic sponsors to speak out ahead of the Olympic Games, which start next week in Sochi.
“We call on all Olympic sponsors to follow AT&T’s lead and publicly denounce Russia’s anti-LGBT law,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement Tuesday.
The question now is whether any of the big global Olympic sponsors will follow suit.
AT&T is a sponsor of the U.S. team and not one of the handful of global Olympic sponsors. Also, as a U.S. company, AT&T is on safer ground than some of the big multinational companies like Coke that sell products in a variety of countries with a wide range of views on LGBT issues (not that there aren’t a fairly wide range in the U.S.).
In addition to Coke, global Olympic and Sochi games sponsors include: Dow Chemical, General Electric, Panasonic, Atos, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Omega, Samsung Electronics and Visa.
Update: Two other U.S. Olympic team sponsors — Chobani and DeVry University — have joined AT&T in speaking out against the Russian law.
“It’s disappointing that in 2014 this is still an issue,” said Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya. “Our company has always believed in diversity and inclusion. We are against all laws and practices that discriminate in any way, whether it be where you come from or who you love.”
DeVry spokesman Ernie Gibble said, “As a USOC sponsor, DeVry University, and its parent organization DeVry Education Group, supports the diversity of our U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as our DeVry Group colleagues around the world. We are against Russia’s anti-LGBT law and support efforts to improve LGBT equality.”
Ryan Ruggiero of CNBC contributed to this report.