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Why is Coca-Cola Sponsoring ‘Murder Music’?

Why is Coca-Cola Sponsoring ‘Murder Music’?


A protest against Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of a ‘murder music’ festival in Jamaica has hit a dead end as the company has stopped negotiations with activists.

The group AIDS-Free World, as well as the veteran Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson, have been talking to them since ‘murder music’ was performed during the four day Coke Zero Live concert in Montego Bay, Jamaica in late April 2011.

‘Murder music’ promotes violence against LGBT people through its lyrics. It primarily comes from certain dancehall and reggae artists such as Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Sizzla and Capleton. There has been a campaign against it since the 1990s, which has won important victories.

At the Coke Zero Live event, Sizzla performed the notorious hate anthem ‘Boom Bye Bye‘ which literally calls for the murder of homosexuals (Here is the video; Sizzla performance begins at 13.55). Sizzla is unable to find performance venues in either the UK or USA because of his reputation. In 2004, he was among a group of artists who were being investigated by Scotland Yard for allegedly inciting murder of homosexuals through their lyrics.

Tomlinson says that there is at least one documented instance in Jamaica where ‘Boom Bye Bye’ was directly linked to the murder of a gay man.

AIDS-Free World has now written to Steve Bucherati, Coca-Cola’s Chief Diversity Officer, accusing them of engaging in a “protracted but unproductive written and phone communication.”

“It is inconceivable to us that you have utterly failed to respond to our efforts to focus your attention on Coca-Cola’s indefensible sponsorship decision,” they write.

“Our patience has run out.”

Bucherati had claimed, says Tomlinson, that the company’s local staff were are not aware of Sizzla’s global reputation for inciting the torture and execution of homosexuals. He also claimed to have submitted a letter of apology to regional Jamaican newspapers, which was never published.

Bucherati, says Tomlinson, promised to submit an article to all Jamaican newspapers once the sponsorship policy review was completed, apologizing for the Sizzla concert and announcing a new corporate policy.

“The Coca-Cola Company’s sponsorship of any murder music is inexplicable. Your subsequent failure to act immediately to ensure that Coca-Cola disavowed the sort of public frenzy of homophobia whipped up by Sizzla cannot be excused,” they say.

“Months ago, you assured us that Coca-Cola had suspended all concert sponsorships in Jamaica, and had in fact undertaken a worldwide review of its sponsorship policies in all of its global markets so as to avoid another incident like the Sizzla debacle. However, you failed to commit to a timeline for this alleged sponsorship policy review, and gave us no way to gauge the review’s progress, if any has been made.”

Coca-Cola, says the letter, “has the resources and capacity to initiate and complete projects with great speed, provided that it considers them important.”

In September, Coca Cola’s CEO, Muhtar Kent, was honored at the Clinton Global Initiative for being among the first to join the 10-year-old Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (now known as GBC Health).

Says AIDS-Free World:

“Coca -Cola hasn’t just fallen short of the voluntary corporate social responsibility ideals to which the company has committed itself under the UN Global Compact; Coca-Cola’s actions have affirmatively produced damage … Until Coca-Cola takes the lead in denouncing homophobia, and takes decisive and public action in remedy, the public will be left with the impression that The Coca-Cola Company endorses violence, human rights violations, and homophobia.”

This is what Coca-Cola is being asked to do:

1. Publish a full-page advertisement in the Sunday edition of the three major Jamaican newspapers (the Jamaica Gleaner, the Jamaica Observer and the Sunday Herald) as well as a full-page advertisement in the Western Mirror denouncing Sizzla’s homophobic performance and expressing support for sexual diversity;

2. Issue a formal statement explaining that it will no longer sponsor artists who are known to have performed and refuse to apologize for homophobic songs;

3. Include a clause in all future sponsorship agreements prohibiting homophobic speech or actions against performers, and in the event of a breach, specifying sanctions, including a termination of the sponsorship arrangement; and

4. Sponsor a concert in Jamaica devoted entirely to artists who have not engaged in homophobic slurs, and that specific condition would be the centerpiece of the advertising for the concert.


Related Stories:

Jamaican Group Launches Anti-Homophobia PSA

One Trans Person Is Murdered Every Other Day

Homeless Lesbian Killed by NYPD


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Photo credit: Maurice

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1:52PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Wow Joe Lee C drinks too much Coke!!!!Hey Rock is that you?Hey I love those promos you cut on John Cena but calm down and have some Fruity Pebbles you might feel a little better.

1:49PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Wow you mean the same company that has the beautiful christmas promotions with jolly St. Nick and the cute polar bears turn right around and promote ugly,vile and disgusting violent acts such as this?!!!Is there no decensy left in the world?

10:39AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

Why would coca cola do that?

10:39AM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

The Coca Cola company has hit some low points in its time, but this surely the lowest yet, and the issue is surely important enough that it should also be taken up by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, I can only continue to boycott all the products of this company.

10:03AM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

So glad I've boycotted everything produced by Coca Cola since the early 70's!

8:40AM PDT on Oct 27, 2011


9:17AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

First, I just have to tell Nancy R that she has not a whit of understanding of this issue. Coca Cola has been up to no end of skullguddery for decades, and somewhere a line must be drawn. At this time we have a degree of social activism not seen since the late 60s and early 70s, but activism much more purposeful than in those days. And that, I think, makes this the ideal time to boycott Coca Cola, and that means all it products.

9:05AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

Patricia G,
Here you go again. We are talking about Coca Cola Company, not about Sizzla.
Shut your BIG mouth (and small brains) up!!!!

3:29AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

Coke is right at the same level with SIZZLA ghetto garbage island hate music. This type of trash does not make you cool, it just shows hatred and frustration with yourself.

1:05PM PDT on Oct 18, 2011

Coca Cola this is as low as you can go ....some companies that know they are untouchable at times just do whatever they like....

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