A Chicago-area activist group protested Saturday at the Oak Brook headquarters of McDonald's corporation, 2111 McDonald's Dr., to take a stand against the fast food giant's sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Members and supporters of StonewallAgain are calling on McDonald's to demand a new venue for the Olympics instead of Sochi because of the Russian Federation's harsh anti-LGBT laws that were voted into place this summer. In a deal that lasts through 2020, McDonald's pays about $100 million to be sole retail food sponsor for each pair of Olympics in a four-year period.
The company has denounced the laws but has not called for any significant action on the part of the International Olympic Committee. In an Aug. 13 statement to Buzzfeed, McDonald's Spokesperson Heidi Barker said, "There's no room for discrimination under the Golden Arches …We support the International Olympic Committee's belief that sport is a human right and the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes."
StonewallAgain's founder, Mike Lackovich, dismissed the statement as platitudes. "They say the words but there is nothing behind them. They are just blanket statements."
But Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network pointed out that at least the statement signified that McDonald's is aware of the issue. "They wouldn't have said those words for no reason."
Lackovich said there are numerous places that the Olympics could be moved, or an alternate event set up, and that McDonald's and other sponsors had the econonic muscle to force the IOC's hand. "There's plenty of alternatives available to McDonald's. It's not like they couldn't afford to sponsor a parallel set of Olympics if they wanted to," he said.
The Russian Federation, by implementing the laws, is clearly in violation of their contract with the IOC, Lackovich added, and needs to be held accountable. "But it's money that drives the Olympics."
"The whole McDonald's connection highlights that Putin gets a lot of complicity from the West," said Thayer. "The activists there have gotten zilch from the West."
"I used to love McDonald's," added Mike Oboza, founder of Bisexual Queer Alliance of Chicago. "But then I saw the pictures and messages coming out of Russia. This isn't a bisexual or a queer issue; it's a human rights issue."
While McDonald's, their co-sponsors and the IOC have been reticent to approach the issue, some athletes have not. Two Swedish participants at the world track and field championships in Moscow last week painted rainbows on their fingernails. Two women later kissed on the winner's platform, as well.
Russian gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva, who is symbolic "mayor" of the athlete's village in Sochi, first denounced the behavior of the Swedes, but quickly backtracked. Later in the week, she said her statements could have been misinterpreted due to her poor English.