Walgreens Takes Heat for Gay Games Sponsorship

Discussion
Oct 19, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The Illinois Family Institute (IFI) in Glen Ellyn, Ill. says homosexuality is against God’s law and it has references to support its position: Genesis 19, Jude 7, Leviticus 18
and 20, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.

That’s why the organization is coming out against Walgreens and others for their sponsorship of the upcoming 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.

“The Gay Games are about homosexuality, and I think it’s wrong for Walgreens to sponsor it,” Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the group told the Chicago Tribune.
“They’ve taken the step of becoming an official sponsor, which is putting the Walgreens name to endorsing this event.”

The drugstore chain, for its part, said it is involved in sponsoring the event to help raise awareness of HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.

Michael Polzin, a Walgreens spokespeson, said the situation is similar to work the company does in other areas. “Each year, we raise millions of dollars in our stores for research
education and building awareness for heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” he said. “This is one way of giving back to the community.”

Mr. LaBarbera doesn’t take issue with addressing the health issue of HIV/AIDS but says, “If they want to donate HIV drugs, that’s one thing. Homosexual behavior itself is a leading
cause of HIV.”

Tracy Baim, co-vice chair of the Chicago Games, said the protest by the IFI is nothing new. “They keep doing this, and corporate America keeps coming. When we meet with [potential]
sponsors, we are very upfront with being targeted by the IFI. It brings a higher visibility to the discrimination we face.”

Moderator’s Comment: Do the protests over Walgreens and other companies’ sponsorship of gay events have a negative impact on their bottom line performance?
Do most consumers see such sponsorships as an endorsement of a lifestyle or simply the act of attracting another customer group without moral judgments thrown in?

George Anderson – Moderator

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18 Comments on "Walgreens Takes Heat for Gay Games Sponsorship"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I could be underestimating the number of religious zealots out there, but to my experience, most people don’t really care much anymore about people’s sexual orientation. And these folk don’t like to see zealots of whatever persuasion casting stones. It comes across as ignorance, fear and bigotry. When people see companies like Walgreens taking sponsorships such as this, I don’t think they see it as endorsing a lifestyle or sucking up to a constituency. I think they see it as a both a generic promotion, and at the same time, an act of courage. Too bad that today, mere tolerance and acceptance sometimes requires courage.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Yet again, I blame the media (at least in part). The stories we non-US residents read often tell tales of discrimination over sexual orientation. From the American papers I read, many of those stories are published over there as well. Based on that, it would appear that many people are concerned about others’ private habits and preferences which may be a self-perpetuating bias. Once you know that it is common practice to speak out against gays, lesbians and transgendered people, it may become more frequent and acceptable. It is at this stage that disagreements may become judgemental.

Gwen Kelly
Guest
Gwen Kelly
15 years 4 months ago

Great discussion and just want to chime in too with a shout-out to Walgreens for just doing what is just a good business decision. The key message to the larger community is Walgreens acknowledgement that it has a diverse customer base with diverse healthcare needs. And in that acknowledgement, Walgreens has acted honorably to be inclusive and supportive of the health needs and concerns of that constituency.

j paresi
Guest
j paresi
15 years 4 months ago
Studies continue to show that most members of the GLB&T communities are better educated, possess more disposable income than the population as a whole, and are fiercely loyal to companies who support them. It’s not surprising that Walgreens (and many other companies!) market to them. The folks at the IFI and anyone who carries the banner of the social conservatives need to be reminded that it is no business of theirs how other people live or love. It all comes down to a very basic rule….keep your nose out of other people’s lives. Until then, I am glad that companies such as Walgreens quietly support the causes and needs of all members of society. Dr Banks, many of ‘us’ on the coasts (and a lot of other places) believe in the strength (personally and economically) of diverse families, friends, relationships and communities and we strongly support companies who support them. I applaud Walgreens or any other company who supports a diverse populace, even if the reasons are mostly in the interests of business.
harold greene
Guest
harold greene
15 years 4 months ago

Just my POV, but I would take issue with the Kelly post. I do not believe there is an intended “message to the larger community.” I suspect that Walgreens is coming from the logic in the equally well articulated Livingston post. This works for Walgreens because it is primarily a targeted promotional sponsorship. If the event were to scale out to significant national prominence, I suspect WG would have serious concerns. General marketplace does not necessarily = tolerant thinkers. Courageous or honorable marketing is not always in shareholder’s best interest.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Doc…you’ll be surprised to know that I agree on the point that Warren has a somewhat myopic view of the situation. However, I find the use of the term “coastal elites” laughable. In my New Jersey town (pop. approx. 39,000), same-sex couples can walk arm-in-arm without a second look. But the town is comprised of a broad range of social classes. To call us all “elite” would be a gross stereotype. And if you knew Warren, you’d chuckle at the very idea of applying the word “elite” (unless you’re referring to his aristocratic good looks 😉

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago
Situational ethics is when we switch our morality on and off according to the situation. The IFI is a group of people who have a clear, published moral standard and who keep the switch “on” all the time. It seems to me that that’s part of the definition of a moral person – you know what they stand for and they’re always true to that moral compass. Since when is it wrong to stand up for what you believe, and to provide the intellectual reasons for your point of view? And since when do we replace the word “moral” with the negative sobriquet, “judgmental?” Applicable to this discussion is a truth which is contrary to Warren’s comment that “most people don’t really care much anymore about people’s sexual orientation.” Polls indicate differently. According to author Laura Ingraham, coastal elites believe that their “reality” must apply to everyone, but are often wrong in that belief. In flyover country, opinions are often polar opposites, and this is one of those times. The majority of Americans actually care… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Walgreens is doing the right thing, regardless of beliefs or personal opinions. People with AIDS spend a lot of money and buy a lot of expensive prescriptions. Some of these run into the thousands of dollars and it’s important that Walgreens tap into a lucrative customer base.

Michael Aarons
Guest
Michael Aarons
15 years 4 months ago

Kudos to Walgreens and any other private or public sector entity that supports not only the communities they work and live in, but also supports those causes–especially health and education-oriented–that are vital to the general well-being of our society. Organizations like the IFI certainly share the same first amendment rights which protect all Americans and they’re clearly entitled to express their views and even boycott companies as they please. However, the Walgreens of the world are in business to succeed and generate a return for all their stakeholders, regardless of lifestyle, race, or religion. The last time I checked, sexual orientation was not a legal issue, so I’m not sure what Walgreens is doing wrong, except giving the IFI a forum to espouse its religious beliefs–where they’re probably doing the community more harm than good.

Tillman Estes
Guest
Tillman Estes
15 years 4 months ago

This decision for Walgreens is all about dollars and cents. The massive retailer is much more interested in profit than making a moral judgment. AIDS and HIV awareness is a medical issue; Walgreens derives most of its operating income and profit from this sector. We should look at this from a business perspective; I am sure the retailer does. My personal values are not compromised by this move for Walgreens. Good job!

Wayne Hancock
Guest
Wayne Hancock
15 years 4 months ago

Walgreens is taking the lead and should be praised for doing such. Overall, people just don’t care about one’s sexual orientation.

Let’s face it – “business is business.” In our global economy, retailers need to get the one up on competitors. In time it will show to be favorable to the bottom line. Good job to Walgreens.

Bob Bridwell
Guest
Bob Bridwell
15 years 4 months ago

The USA is great, isn’t it? If you don’t like the Walgreen sponsorship, go to CVS; or don’t like unions, go to Wal-Mart; or like unions, go to Kroger.

Capitalism and free markets make it possible

People have their “own” stores for many reasons. I happen to like independent and regional grocers. I shop there knowing that I’m paying more, in some cases, but I like the owner(s) and the people who work there and want to see them succeed.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less about sponsorships.

Dawn Cripe
Guest
Dawn Cripe
15 years 4 months ago

Bravo! To Walgreens for making a commitment to better the health of all individuals whom they serve AND for not backing down in the face of hatred and discrimination.

I wrote my thesis on the very subject of corporate advertising to the gay and lesbian community. It was a fascinating study and one that deserves more attention in that many advertisers are still trying to figure out HOW TO advertise to us — does their product HAVE TO be labeled as a “Gay” product or is it simply marketing to a core group of people who have consumer demands for their product?

My friends and I will continue to shop at Walgreens.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

American Airlines, Subaru, Budweiser, and many other prominent brands routinely sponsor gay, lesbian and transgender events. I suspect that those executives don’t lie awake all night worrying about damage done to their brands by bigots. It’s really important to gay, lesbian and transgender people to see which brands are their allies, and there is no doubt that this carries over into their purchase behavior, as well as their friends’ purchase behavior. Furthermore, many of their friends aren’t gay, lesbian, or transgender, and word of mouth is the most effective marketing any brand can enjoy. Any business that embraces diversity in its marketing, hiring, and assortments takes the risk that bigots won’t like it. Some people don’t believe that birth control is legitimate. Would Walgreens remove contraceptives from their assortment?

Steven Davidson
Guest
Steven Davidson
15 years 4 months ago

Walgreens is making a positive statement that they are committed to the communities that they operate in, and are committed to the education and awareness of diversity in the community. Diversity is what makes our communities, and it is diversity that keeps Walgreens doors open. It is groups such as this that protest Walgreens, that drive companies even more to make a strong commitment to the community, and create awareness about culture, lifestyles, etc.

Furthermore, Walgreens is doing some excellent work for a good cause. There is little HIV/AIDS research funding right now, and every little bit helps.

This is quite a statement for Walgreens to make. In addition, other companies follow suit by not only donating to organizations and functions such as this, but also for others such as breast cancer awareness, etc.

Ronald D. Mayes
Guest
Ronald D. Mayes
15 years 4 months ago

Let the name calling begin. Calling out Walgreens stated purpose of eliminating the AIDS virus is inconsistent with supporting an activity that promotes an at risk lifestyle does not make one a bigot. If Walgreens were donating $100,000 to AIDS research or to offset the cost of AIDS perscription drugs I would applaud their action. However I do not understand their motivation of promoting a particular life style, especially one that is so closely linked to the spread of the virus they which they claim they would like to eliminate. I would have the same opinion if a drug chain were supporting a group that celebrated the use of tobacco products.

Jody L. Serkes
Guest
Jody L. Serkes
15 years 4 months ago

I would like to commend Walgreens, and to condemn this ridiculous group for its homophobia. Particularly, to its own constituency.

Ten percent of your organization is gay. Just the facts. Even if you’re against the homosexual agenda, whatever that means, you still most likely have closeted gay people in your groups. You would be much better off supporting and doing good work for the populous. Gay men and women are your doctors, CEO’s, lawyers, trash collectors, CPAs, teachers, etc.

The Gay Games are just another wonderful way of people getting together and participating in international sports competition.

Thank you Walgreens.

andy gordon
Guest
andy gordon
15 years 1 month ago

The Walgreens/gay sponsorship is blatantly a stereotype. I find it offensive on all fronts. The “raising HIV awareness” dodge only shows Walgreens weak attempt to respond to consumer backlash. Really, so HIV is now only a gay disease? Gimme a break. They got caught pandering to the gay agenda. If you court the gay community, you will undoubtedly run afoul of some segment in opposition. Actually, what purpose do gay games serve? Are there gay sports? The very idea is at the same time discriminatory and asinine. Walgreens should have gone into this thing eyes open. Obviously Walgreens needs a shakeup in marketing. I am available if needed.

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