Columnists :: David Foucher
On Stoli And Boycotts
Dear EDGE Readers,
Recent involvement of the LGBT community in a boycott of Stolichnaya Vodka has resulted in some of our more respected advocates calling into question EDGE’s sponsorship of an ongoing promotional campaign for Stolichnaya vodka entitled "The Most Original Stoli Guy."
While we are by no means distancing ourselves from these events as a result of the boycott, it is important to note that our involvement with this campaign is that of a third-party media partner with our client GayCities / Queerty, and that our agreement to participate in this promotion predates the vote and passage of the Russian gay propaganda law and subsequent revelation of violence against LGBT Russian citizens.
EDGE believes it is appropriate for the LGBT community to force entities actively involved in human rights violations to correct their courses of action; however we have no evidence that SPI, the owners of Stoli outside of Russia, has participated in any initiatives that could be deemed harmful to our community, nor that they support or have any influence with the Russian government or any of the individuals within Russia who are responsible for the atrocities committed there.
Whether or not Stoli is a "Russian" vodka seems to be a matter of perception and is up for debate. We do know that Stoli is distilled and bottled in Latvia, a member of the European Union; due to EU guidelines, the words "Russian Vodka" were replaced by "Premium Vodka" on the company’s labels beginning in 2010. The company is not operating out of Russia. No evidence has been presented to us that concretely ties the Stoli vodka being sold in your local liquor stores or bars to Russia or to its government.
As a result of the above, while we respect the convictions of our community’s respected and more fervent activists, the boycott of Stoli at this time appears to be a symbolic initiative. As a news organization, therefore, we feel our appropriate involvement with this boycott is our commitment to fairly and accurately report on it. In line with this decision, the team at EDGE has decided to fulfill our business obligation and, for the moment, continue our sponsorship of the "Most Original Stoli Guy" series of events.
On a side note: in our direct conversations with Stoli, we’ve been told that the company shares the LGBT community’s outrage over the anti-gay events playing out in Russia, and is currently involved in talks with charitable organizations and advocacy groups through which Stoli can be active as part of the solution - via marketing and direct donations. Based on Stoli’s history with the LGBT community - which includes a decades-long involvement at home and abroad with our celebrations, our bars and our media outlets - we believe Stoli deserves time to formulate a response to this boycott and should not be abandoned by our community until it has done so.
In the fullness of time, we will continue to report on and carefully investigate Stoli’s response to the LGBT community’s boycott. Should that response - or our community’s reaction to it - impact our association with Stoli or with these events, we will be sure to let our readers know.
David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.