14

Several news outlets recently reported Coca-Cola tried to minimize health issues associated with their sugary beverages by paying NAACP to paint their opponents as racist.

Why Coke went woke
Whistleblower Exposes Coke's Efforts to Paint Opponents of Sugary Drinks as Racists

Both of these sources reference a widely viewed Twitter thread by Calley Means, who claims:

Early in my career, I consulted for Coke to ensure sugar taxes failed and soda was included in food stamp funding.

I say Coke's policies are evil because I saw inside the room.

The first step in playbook was paying the NAACP + other civil rights groups to call opponents racist

...

The conversations inside these rooms was depressingly transactional:

"We (Coke) will give you money. You need to paint opponents of us as racist."

They also claim that Coca-Cola is deeply embedded with the FDA, and indirectly (via FDA) funded money to professors to create studies showing that soda taxes hurt the poor.

Seems like the source of these accusations comes from a single whistleblower, who claims to have worked as a consultant for Coke. Is there any other evidence to back up these assertions?

2
  • 3
    Please put the actual claim from the sources in the question
    – Joe W
    Jan 6, 2023 at 1:07
  • 5
    Are there good examples of the NAACP calling opponents of Coke racist? If there are that wouldn't prove that Coke paid them to do it but if there aren't it would prove that if Coke tried to do that they failed.
    – quarague
    Jan 6, 2023 at 7:52

1 Answer 1

15

The whistleblower's claims are new, and that sort of by definition (since a whistle needed to be blown) means that the claims were not publicly reported beforehand, so support for this will take time.

That said, there have been prior collaborations between the American Beverage Association and the NAACP of New York to challenge things like Bloomberg's proposed "soda ban" back in 2013. AFAICT, no NAACP representative officially called the proposed ban racist, instead claiming an infringement on personal freedom, but they did note that the structure disproportionately impacted minority-owned businesses, quoting the linked article:

Mr. Bloomberg’s plan, the brief argued, would disproportionately hurt minority-owned small businesses, which faced competition from larger convenience stores like 7-Eleven that would be exempt from the soda restrictions because of a quirk in New York’s regulatory structure.

“At its worst, the ban arbitrarily discriminates against citizens and small-business owners in African-American and Hispanic communities,” the brief said.

It never says the word "racist", but saying a policy disproportionately and arbitrarily harms minorities is effectively describing a racist outcome without necessarily accusing their opponents of racist motives.

The same article also notes ongoing ties between the NAACP and soda companies, particularly Coke:

But the N.A.A.C.P. has close ties to big soft-drink companies, particularly Coca-Cola, whose longtime Atlanta law firm, King & Spalding, wrote the amicus brief filed by the civil rights group in support of a lawsuit aimed at blocking Mr. Bloomberg’s soda rules, which are set to take effect in March.

Coca-Cola has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to a health education program, Project HELP, developed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The brief describes that program, but not the financial contributions of the beverage company. The brief was filed jointly with another organization, the Hispanic Federation, whose former president, Lillian Rodríguez López, recently took a job at Coca-Cola.

This doesn't prove or disprove the whistleblower's claims; those outside the NAACP (and possibly the NAACP, I can't find a source) have fought restrictions on what food stamp money can be spent on before, unrelated to soda. There was a period in the last 20 years in which food stamp critics were claiming recipients were spending it on steak and lobster and either the selection should be limited, or it should be directly distributed as nutritional expert chosen food products, and that approach was criticized as paternalistic, if not downright racist, by various critics. The money Coke contributes to the NAACP is part of many charitable endeavors, and there's no evidence it's enriching the NAACP, vs. merely funding necessary expenditures for their charitable programs.

TL;DR:

  1. It is publicly known that the NAACP of New York has opposed at least one specific soda restriction, and claimed the policy had a racist outcome (without explicitly accusing the proponents of the ban of racist motives).
  2. It is publicly known that they did so in coordination with soda industry lawyers.
  3. Coca-Cola specifically is known to have donated tens of thousands of dollars to a program, Project HELP, developed by the NAACP.

Whether the relationship was corrupt (the NAACP took specific actions they otherwise would not have to receive the money) or innocent (the NAACP's beliefs on personal freedom for food stamp recipients and the disproportionate effects on minority small business owners happened to overlap the ABA's goal of blocking soda taxes/bans) can't be proved without relying on the whistleblower at this time.

0

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .