During Sunday’s 2014 Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, Coca-Cola aired a 60-second commercial titled "It's Beautiful," a portion of which briefly highlighted two men that appeared to be gay fathers. The ad shows two dads roller-skating with their daughter.
The move comes on the heels of Coca Cola facing a backlash for the company's sponsorship of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in wake of Russia's crackdown on members of the LGBT community.
The company also recently landed in hot water when a new social media campaign related to the Olympics allegedly prevented users from typing the word "gay" on a customizable Coke can, but allowed the use of the word "straight."
In wake of the backlash surrounding Coca-Cola's involvement in these previous two events, some prominent LGBT leaders took to social media to express their opinions about the company's inclusion of the two gay fathers in the Super Bowl commercial.
On Twitter, my friend Mike Signorile, an author and radio talk show host, posted : “If @CocaCola thinks including gay family in Super Bowl ad excuses sponsoring #Sochi they’ve been drinkin' too much cola.”
Dan Savage, featured in SFGN’s Mirror magazine, and a columnist often seen on television with Bill Maher, wrote: “Now, @CocaCola? Put a pair of Russian gay dads in an ad that you run in Russia — during the Olympics.”
Chris Johnson, the talented Washington Blade reporter, remarked, that at first he was snarky about the ad, “but now that I see the hateful reaction, I commend them for boldness of airing it during the SuperBowl.”
GLAAD, an LGBT rights advocacy group, praised the spot in a statement and noted that it marks the first Super Bowl ad to feature a gay family. Conservative and family groups were not so happy, though. The right-leaning news outlet Breitbart.com reported Sunday night that the Coca-Cola ad sparked “outrage from some viewers" because, among other perceived offenses, it "featured a gay family."
If she were alive, I am guessing the author of the anthem might be a little bit perturbed about that. You see, she was a lesbian. Yes, in fact. Katharine Lee Bates, who first drafted the words to ‘America the Beautiful’ in 1893, lived in Wellesley, Mass., for 25 years with Katharine Coman. She loved America despite the homophobia of its forefathers and foremothers.
The reality is that anyone from 9 to 90 years old can open a Twitter account and post moronic, mindless and myopic slurs. And they do. So the social media site was populated with toxic and poisoned posts after the ad ran. What that says to me and what it should say to you is that the LGBT community still has not won over Americans of all ages. We have a ways to go yet, don’t we?
Dan Savage is right, of course. We should air the ad in Sochi. But it reminds me of the line about get the log out of your own ear before you stick a pine cone in mine. Or something like that. In fact, Vladimir Putin pointed that out to remind us all is not perfect here in the states. For example, while we have politicians debating the safety of the Sochi Olympics, we have police cleaning up bodies in American shopping malls every weekend.
It was not only the homophobia that came out of the closet with this ad. Not surprisingly, the ad also provoked a storm of haters tweeting that all the non-English speaking voices in the ad should ‘Speak American.’
"Speak English or go home," said one commenter on one Twitter account. Another commented, "Screwed up a beautiful song. No Coke for my family." Thousands more commented, and so many of the remarks were just ugly.
Of the song, SFGN would say that we should be grateful it was presented in many languages. From our earliest days on Ellis Island, we have welcomed foreigners to our shore, and made those cultures and customs our own. Diversity is the essence of a pluralistic society. That is what a melting pot is all about.
It’s 2014, and we are emerging, slowly in stages, from an Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to a Civil Rights Act in 1964, to an African American president in 2014. That African American endorsed LGBT equality in his inaugural address last year, when he said, from “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall,” we are all equal.
Folks, the LGBT community is on the right side of history, and we will get to that rainbow one day. But before the rainbow there are storms we must weather, currents and tides that you have to sail. Whether it was last year’s Super Bowl controversy on marriage equality or this year’s discussion of gay rights in Sochi, the important thing is to be heard; to stand naked before the cannon, if necessary.
It was in 1968 that two African American athletes won an Olympic Medal and shocked America by raising a black-gloved fist in a Black Power salute during the national anthem. I promise you this. In the next week, some gay athlete, or gay supportive athlete, will medal in the Olympics. When the national anthem is played, they will raise a gay flag in their honor. And we will have won again. But no one promised us a rose garden, and even they have thorns. The battle goes on.