Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Activists to Protest McD's Sponsorship of Sochi Winter Games

Saturday's protest begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17 outside McDonald's World Headquarters, at 2111 McDonald's Drive, in Oak Brook

By BJ Lutz
|  Thursday, Aug 15, 2013  |  Updated 7:50 PM CDT
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    Activists on Saturday plan to rally outside McDonald's Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters in protest of the fast food chain's sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

    The event is sponsored by the LGBT group StoneWallAGAIN and will feature speakers from that organization as well as from Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago and the Gay Liberation Network, according to a media release.

    Activists are angry with McDonald's continued support of the Games after Russia's passage earlier this summer of a law which bans the spreading of "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors.

    "McDonald’s has a responsibility to disavow sponsorship if local authorities refuse to provide safety to all who participate in the games that they are promoting," said Mike Lackovich, founder of StonewallAGAIN. "These homophobic laws enacted are similar to those passed at the start of the holocaust in Nazi Germany.  McDonald’s needs to work with the IOC to find a safe venue for all participants to compete without fear of abuse, violence or deportation for being who they are."

    McDonald's became an official sponsor of the Olympic Games for the first time during the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. That sponsorship was renewed last year through the 2020 Games.

    A senior McDonald's spokeswoman declined to comment specifically about the protest but said "there's no room for discrimination under the Golden Arches."

    "McDonald’s supports the spirit of the Olympic Games and its ability to unite the world in a positive and inspirational way," said Suzanne Valliere, McDonald's senior manager of Global External Communications. "Regarding the recent Russian legislation, 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."

    But that statement doesn't sit well with activists who say McDonald's is essentially supporting  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Olympics.

    "To ask people to go back into the closet so they can compete in something they have aggressively trained for regardless of sexual orientation is utterly absurd," said Lackovich.

    Saturday's protest begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17 outside McDonald's World Headquarters, at 2111 McDonald's Drive, in Oak Brook.

    Other protests include a boycott of several brands of vodka and other Russian products.

    NBC Sports is the official United States broadcaster of the 2014 Winter Games. Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said the network would not ignore the issue.

    "If it is still their law and it is impacting any part of the Olympics Games, we will make sure that we acknowledge it and recognize it," he said in a recent meeting with television writers. "We as a company, obviously, believe in equality, opportunity for all. We don't believe that the games are in the spirit of the law that they've passed, and we're hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out."

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