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Views & Voices

Thanks Coke for the Super Bowl commercial… but, ‘Is It the Real Thing?’

Monday, February 3, 2014


I have to confess that I have always looked forward to Super Bowl Sundays. I did so for other reasons than most people do, however. It was not to watch “the game”, but rather, to go out and enjoy venues that were normally packed on a Sunday afternoon, now under-populated with the vast majority gathered around television sets across the nation.

Last year, those plans changed when my son Jesse announced that he wanted to watch the game. Oh, where did I go wrong? (Kidding!)

I thought with his attention span, this would be a short-lived exercise, but it was not. He avidly absorbed the game and got into it for the full duration.

“We were robbed by that black out,” he grumbled as he saw his team fight back, but come up short in the end. “Next year.”

His team did not get in this year, but as it turns out, his family, or a representation of us, did.

Coca-Cola knocked out a surprise commercial featuring the diversity of America. It portrayed a diverse snapshot of the cultures, religions and orientations of our country all while voices sang “America the Beautiful” in different languages.

About halfway through, there is the depiction of a gay family, two dads and their daughter, ice skating. It was the first time in history that a family such as mine was shown in a Super Bowl ad.

It was a sixty-second rendition, but the waves it created have reached much further.

Waves of hatred for the commercial hit Twitter immediately, most around the complaint that America the Beautiful should only be sung in English, and most projecting more xenophobia than homophobia. Immigrants and non-whites were un-American to these offensive and offended voices.

The dissenters might be a bit distressed to know that it is unlikely the author of America the Beautiful herself would not be counted among their number.

Katharine Lee Bates reportedly left the Republican party late in her life due to its growing xenophobia at the time. Moreover, the inclusion of a gay family would have likely been applauded by Ms. Bates as well.

According to Biography, “Bates wrote a set of sonnets to honor her love Katharine Coman. She and Coman, both been professors at Wellesley, lived together for roughly 25 years. Bates was heartbroken over Coman’s death in 1915.”

I have to confess, that in watching the commercial, I needed to be told that it featured a gay family. The footage moves fast, and literally, if you blink, you will have missed it.

The inclusion is spelled out much more fully in the excellent video Coke released called “Coca Cola-It’s Beautiful – Behind the Scenes.”

Within this five minute video, one of the gay dads states, “It’s been very hard for my family when it comes to the gay issue, and it’s what caused us so much pain over all these years… Today I see people, you know, asking us to hold hands, people embracing us as a family and respecting us.”

Another participant in the video states, “You should know who you are, you should embrace who you are.”

So. Here is my note to the Coke advertising executives:

Dear Coca-Cola,

Thank you. I know that you have taken a great deal of flack over your commercial “It’s beautiful”. The commentary has been anything but beautiful from a certain faction of our country.

By the time I checked the #Coke Twitter stream last night, the comments had swung out hard in your defense, and I think the viral buzz around your 60 second spot will give you more than your money’s worth of exposure.

In my home, your visibility was well beyond a fleeting glance. As a gay dad, I wanted my sons to see the promotion you had given to important American principles. I showed them your commercial and the “behind the scenes” video. My sons are both now eleven years old, both came from drug addicted parents, and both were adopted by me through foster care. My sons have two dads.

Last year, my son Jesse was glued to the Super Bowl, and he saw nothing that reflected back the picture of our family. You changed that this year, so again, thank you.

This year, my kids loved your commercial and embraced all for which it stood. Jason’s heritage is Mexican and he appreciated his background being acknowledged.

After the ice skating scene, both heads swiveled towards me and said in unison, “Dad! When can we go ice skating?!” I admit, they are not aware that the public depiction of a family with same sex parents as a big deal. To them, such a family playing on ice is the novelty. I am glad that is their perception.

It cannot be the perception kids like them in Russia have, however. Families like ours in the country hosting the Olympics are currently living in fear. The gay parents there are not dreaming of strangers asking them to hold hands, they are afraid of legislation that is a vote away from taking their kids from them.

Here in America, I can send your “behind the scenes” video out through my social media contacts. For a Russian gay dad to do so, is a criminal act.

My sons have had the love and safety of a home for their entire lives, in Russia, kids such as mine number over 400,000 and are locked away in orphanages with parents like me prevented from adopting them.

You have been deservedly under fire for your sponsorship of the Sochi Olympics. Now you have shown great courage in the United States on behalf of diversity. There are those who are cynical that you may be playing both sides and looking for the maximum in financial gain.

To use your own branding catch phrase, they are asking, and I am asking, about your support for freedom and diversity: Is it the real thing?

Will you blindly fund a regime that would deem your current public outreach as a crime or will you still stand for diversity in a country whose population is not yet open to hearing it? Will your commercial for the Olympics still feature a family like mine?

I am begging for you to do so.

Thank you for remembering my family at the Super Bowl. Please do not forget our Russian counterparts. They need your voice even more than my kids do. Please make this real and not some marketing ploy.

We’ll be watching.

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31 more reader comments:

  1. I am gay and I work for Coke!

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 11:58pm
  2. Of course not, Just another marketing gimmick.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 11:58pm
  3. Doesn’t make up for Sochi!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 11:59pm
  4. I love the commercial that they showed! Much love! Thanks!

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 11:59pm
  5. Khaled one of the topics I was mentioning

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:05am
  6. Coke supports Russia arresting LGBT activists.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:08am
  7. my thoughts too

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:12am
  8. okay, i honestly don’t care that they sponsor the olympics. i know their stance on LGBT issues. they are a company. they are in the business to make money. they don’t HAVE to publicly support our cause–they choose to. promoting diversity is good enough in my book. rock on, coke!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:13am
  9. A lot of their sponsorship is republican a-holes, so I thought it was a nice middle finger to them.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:21am
  10. Great comercial! #samelove

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:24am
  11. I am Bisexual and I love the commercial

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:32am
  12. Ya, diversity and life is the real thing!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:32am
  13. The fact that Coke supports diversity is a very real reason to be in Sochi!! The Russians know how Coke feels and what they represent and I think its great to have a company there that does represent all people.. the athletes need it too

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 12:34am
  14. :)

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:03am
  15. this the one they bitching bout…FUKIN RACIST NEEDS TO STOP..LET PEOPLE BE..FUK U HATERS!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:04am
  16. It’s a commercial! How could it be the real thing?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:25am
  17. Coke sponsored the Olympics, like always. That doesn’t mean they support Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. Please get a grip.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:25am
  18. well it sure helps and maybe there will be one in Sochi….

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:28am
  19. and they didn’t do it for commercial reasons? Of course not …..

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:37am
  20. Such damn fools we are to think that a commercial is honest. Damned fools.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:40am
  21. Who cares? They’re an evil corporation that poisons people with their products. They’re no better than McDonalds.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 2:35am
  22. Oh, how DARE someone choose to drink something you don't like?!?

    Replied on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 8:43am
  23. LGBTQ Nation did it air at all ?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 3:50am
  24. It’s patronizing and insincere

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 3:52am
  25. I think this is awesome that these companies are finally showing diversity in their commercials. I love it! <3

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 4:37am
  26. Thank you Coke!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 6:03am
  27. Will Coke play this ad in Russia? Or is this just to appease anger about Sochi sponsorship?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 9:40am
  28. While Coke likely doesn’t support Russia’s anti LGBT stance, they did flubb by not allowing anyone to use the word GAY or other GAY-related words on their Share a Coke promotion. While the commercial was beautifully done and even impressed this cynical heart, i am not convinced that they are sincere regarding marriage equality and LGBT rights. That will take much more effort than a 1-2 minute commercial. Remember that Coca Cola is a business and their #1 goal is to make profit. If that means appealing to the anti-LGBT government of Russia, then they will do so. If that means appealing to the equal-rights loving Americans, then they will do so. If that means appealing to the bigots of the world (assuming they outnumber everyone else), then they will do so. Also, since it is a business, it’s “views” on anything are pointless since it is an organization of individuals, all of whom may not share the same attitudes that the business’ practices take the company.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 11:18am
  29. It’s about time

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 11:22am
  30. Excellent article!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 11:37am
  31. nuanced. unlike some people who are never happy.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 1:38pm