By Nico Lang and Kate Sosin
Literally no one wants to put their logo on Boston’s Straight Pride Parade.
This week, Super Happy Fun America, which is organizing the August 31 event, announced it had “initiated negotiations” with 25 major corporate sponsors to partner for the upcoming parade. In a Tuesday email blast, the group claimed it was in talks with companies like Amazon, Tumblr, Yelp, Netflix, Starbucks, Pepsi Co., Bank of America, and GrubHub to sign onto the event, which will feature alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos as its grand marshal.
“As corporations with reputations for being both progressive and socially conscious, we are optimistic that they will become part of the team advancing our historic civil rights movement,” Super Happy Fun America writes.
On June 26, the organization announced it had received permission from the City of Boston hold a one-day event celebrating the “diverse history, culture, and identity” of the heterosexual community. The parade, which will purportedly include “floats” and “vehicles,” is set to trace the same route as June’s LGBTQ Pride Parade.
Although Super Happy Fun America claims on its website that the event is intended to “educate the public about straight issues,” its organizers are closely associated with white supremacist groups in Boston. According to ThinkProgress, organizer Mark Sahady is a member of the “alt-lite” group Resist Marxism, which endorsed his co-organizer, John Hugo, during an unsuccessful congressional run last year.
If it’s surprising to you that national corporations would be associated with far-right nationalism, there’s a reason for that. Businesses contacted by NewNowNext say they’ve never actually heard from the Straight Pride organizers.
Across the board, companies like Lyft, Ben & Jerry’s, Gillette, and Facebook condemned the claims and asserted they are not in negotiations to sponsor the Straight Pride Parade. Not only have they never been in conversation with Super Happy Fun America about partnership, they say they won’t ever consider signing onto the event.
Laura Peterson, a spokesperson for Ben & Jerry’s, says she emailed parade organizers and told them she wasn’t aware of any “negotiations” between Super Happy Fun America and the Vermont-based ice cream company.
“I have asked them to remove our name and logo from their website, Facebook page, and anywhere else suggesting otherwise,” Peterson tells NewNowNext.
Peterson says it’s “possible but unlikely” that Super Happy Fun America had reached out to an individual franchisee but said sponsorship is not “something that is being considered at the corporate level.” The company was an early supporter of LGBTQ equality, backing federal legislation to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation since 2001.
Lyft also says Super Happy Fun America never reached out about potential partnership.
“We are not in negotiations and we do not have plans to sponsor ‘Straight Pride,’” Jess Haro-Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the ridesharing app, tells NewNowNext.
Others suggested Super Happy Fun America’s claims are misleading at best and intentionally deceptive at worst. A spokesperson for the razor and shaving supply company Gillette says any assertion they have been in discussions to sponsor a Straight Pride event is “incorrect,” while Best Buy adds that it has “not been approached by this group, and to our knowledge, no one at the store level has been approached either.”
The microblogging and social media website Tumblr offered among the most definitive denunciations of the Straight Pride Pride. A spokesperson claimed the company “has not and will not have any discussions” with its organizers.
While Microsoft couldn’t confirm whether Super Happy Fun America had ever reached out to them, as the multinational tech firm employs thousands of people across the world, a spokesperson confirmed the Bill Gates-owned company is “not a corporate sponsor of this event.”
Netflix* declined to offer comment at all. Notably, Super Happy Fun America uses the streaming service’s old logo in its announcement email.
The swift and myriad denouncements are similar to what befell the Straight Pride Parade in June, when Academy Award-nominated actor Brad Pitt ordered its organizers to stop using his likeness to promote the event. Super Happy Fun America was met with a cease and desist after it applauded Pitt for “being the face of this important civil rights movement.”
Photos of the actor were subsequently replaced with notices saying the images were “censored” and “redacted.”
Although they declined to be quoted on record, companies contacted by NewNowNext speculated that Super Happy Fun America is essentially trolling public figures and major businesses to get them respond. It helps get the organization press, they say.
The Straight Pride organizers insist that they did contact the companies, however. In a statement to NewNowNext, Super Happy Fun America again describes itself as a “civil rights organization” and claims they targeted those corporations because the companies have “reputations as tolerant, forward looking, socially conscious organizations.”
“Given this opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are confident that they will be interested in sponsoring our parade,” the organization says. “We have reached out to each of them and are eagerly awaiting their response.”
Super Happy Fun America further requested that NewNowNext act as its intermediary to help secure sponsorship for the parade.
“We will let the public know when we receive responses and hopefully we can announce that corporate America is truly committed to inclusivity and equality,” it claims. “It would be greatly appreciated if you ask them to get back to us when you call.”
Whether or not Super Happy Fun America is being truthful about claims it has been in contact with groups like the National Football League, Google, Twitter, and YouTube, the parade may not even be happening at all. Although it has received a permit from the city of Boston, New York magazine reports the group has not obtained a “parade permit from the police department and an entertainment license from the licensing board.”
A spokesperson for the mayor’s press office tells NewNowNext the group has submitted paperwork to obtain those permits, but that spokesperson did not confirm whether the requests had actually been granted.
*Update on July 16, 2019: Netflix confirmed they are not sponsoring the event and never received outreach.
*Update on July 19, 2019: TripAdvisor reached out to NewNowNext with this note: “We are a proud and inclusive workplace, which is why our lawyers have delivered a message to parade organizers that we want nothing to do with their event. We believe the organizers of this event owe the LGBTQ+ community an apology—even if sorry seems to be the hardest word to say.