Target’s Pride Sponsorship: When Does Money Become Tainted?
Last summer, Target came under fire when it donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a political action committee backing anti-gay candidate Tom Emmer. LGBT groups, bloggers and assorted activists called for a boycott of the popular retail chain. The controversy received a lot more attention when, shortly thereafter, Lady Gaga pulled out of an exclusive album release, reportedly because the retail giant continued to make sizable donations to anti-gay politicians.
Is it any wonder then, why some are questioning Target’s sponsorship of several gay pride festivals this year? Local Target stores are also sponsoring a number of festivals
The company is the latest in a list of corporations that, at various times, have come under fire for donating to Pride celebrations, either because of politics or because of other issues (such as health, for cigarette maker Phillip Morris).
Chris Frederick, managing director of New York City Pride, one of three pride festivals sponsored by Target Corp. this year, believes the very fact that the company is doing the sponsorship is proof of a mea culpa -- an acknowledgement of past mistakes and a desire to improve.
"I think that they’re making strides and they’re trying to make up for the mistakes they made," Frederick said. Frederick said Target passed on sponsorship last year.
This year, groups like his expected criticism. "To me, it was a choice of whether I wanted to take the money, or if another pride would just end up taking it," he said. "A lot of major corporations support major Republican initiatives. I don’t think it was an anti-marriage donation; I think it was more of a pro-business donation that just so happened to be tied into a candidate that was anti-marriage."
Deception? Or an Attempt at Redemption?
It’s an issue that raises the question: Is Target’s sponsorship of gay pride festivals a deceptive move or a redemptive one?
Last week, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel said the company has a neutral stance on an initiative to ban same-sex marriage in company’s home state of Minnesota. Twin Cities Pride, which has defended its continued sponsorship from Target, was so disappointed that organizers redrafted Target’s sponsorship agreement.
"Our board of directors was appalled this week to learn that Target has publicly stated a ’neutral’ position on the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman," organizers said in a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page.