Jun 1, 2023 - Podcasts

Corporate America’s commitment to Pride is under new scrutiny

Pride month is here and chances are if you are out shopping you will see Pride decorated clothing, food, home decor and more. This, of course, is not new. But, these corporate Pride tie-ins are under more scrutiny.

  • Plus, using Apple AirTags to track car thieves.
  • And, what makes this NBA finals matchup so special.

Guests: Axios' Nathan Bomey, Russell Contreras and Jeff Tracy.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Thursday, June 1st. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today on the show: The House passes an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. Plus, using Apple airtags to track car thieves. But first, corporate America’s commitment to Pride is under new scrutiny. That’s our One Big Thing.

Corporate Pride promotions are under scrutiny

Nathan, what’s going on with some of the Pride-themed promotions you’ve been hearing about?

NATHAN BOMEY: Well, Target is really under pressure because they had some pride themed products on the shelves that they ended up deciding to remove after backlash from the far right and the social media backlash that is really sweeping across various companies, and it's a pretty concerted effort to target companies that have put a lot of support behind Pride in recent years, but are suddenly facing some opposition that they have not in recent years.

NIALA: And how much is this because of the recent controversy over Bud Light, can you remind us about that?

NATHAN: Yeah. Anheuser-Busch, which is the company that owns Budweiser and Bud Light, became the source of a lot of tension because of the fact that they were sponsoring this transgender influencer named Dylan Mulvaney. They basically gave her a can of Bud Light that was specifically customized for her. And this got a lot of attention and a lot of backlash from anti- LGBTQ folks, and they were upset and they ended up driving Bud Light sales down. Anheuser-Busch panicked. And they basically backtracked and said we don't really want to be part of controversial marketing anymore. And I think that this set the stage for Pride month and a new tone, because we're seeing other companies come under pressure for these sorts of relationships.

NIALA: So is it accurate to say that other companies are pulling back on different Pride month tie-ins because they don't want to be the subject of boycotts or media attention on this?

NATHAN: Well, I talked to the chief communications officer at GLAAD, which is a pro-LGBTQ rights group, and they said they're not seeing a significant decrease in Pride month corporate support. But I do think that there are some notable exceptions and, you know, Target actually did pull some of those products from the shelves. And in some areas they put some of the products in less easy to find places in the store. So that's, uh, what's angered a lot of pro- LGBTQ groups and community members. But on the other hand, they say they're still committed to supporting pride and supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

NIALA: Nathan, in the past, companies have been accused of “rainbow washing,” or pandering to the LGBTQ+ community for their own gain, and now, as you've been describing, there's backlash. From a business standpoint, do these pride promotions make sense?

NATHAN: I think it makes sense for a lot of these companies. Now, I, I want to be clear that I think that there's broad support for these issues, but there is a vocal minority has executed in this backlash against these companies. And of course with social media, they have a bigger, you know, microphone through which to spread their message. You know, we've seen Bud Light for example, you know, have some sales problems in recent weeks, and we'll see if that's sustained over time. I think we're gonna have to wait to see till the end of June to see who really stuck by the side of LGBTQ folks and who did not. Because this is the first month in years, I think, in which Pride is going to maybe cost companies in some areas.

NIALA: Nathan Bomey is an Axios business reporter. Thanks Nathan.

NATHAN: Thank you.

The House passes a bill to raise the debt ceiling

HOUSE FLOOR: Yays are 314, the nays are 117. The bill has passed.

NIALA: That’s the House yesterday voting to pass the debt ceiling bill – 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted against it. Here’s what you need to know: The bipartisan package suspends the debt ceiling for two years and limits federal spending. The passage in the House puts the U.S. government on track to avert a default. The bill’s next stop is the Senate.

In a moment: with car thefts up in the U.S., are Apple air tags the answer?

Using Apple AirTags to track car thieves.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Car thefts have spiked by nearly 60% in 30 major U.S. cities from 2019 to 2022, according to the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice. Axios' Russell Contreras has been reporting on how more people are now using Apple air tags to combat these thefts… sometimes with deadly results.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: We've all come to know Apple Air tags as these fun Bluetooth devices to help you find your lost keys, your purse, your wallet, or your luggage. They are simple to set up and relatively cheap, but there's a growing use by some people to place them inside their cars, not to help you remember where you parked, but to find the cars in case they get stolen.

New York City recently handed out 500 free air tags to battle auto theft in a very hard hit section of the city. However, some police departments and other cities are urging caution. That's because sometimes that the tracking of stolen cars has turned deadly. For example, police said a San Antonio man fatally shot a suspected car thief in March after he tracked his stolen vehicle to a shopping center. The shooter's not expected to face charges.

And in Denver police say a Colorado man tracked his stolen car and got into a confrontation with somebody in the vehicle. A 12 year old in the car was shot and killed. It's important to remember that cities are dealing with police staffing shortages. So the use of air tags to retrieve stolen vehicles is understandable, but police worry about people taking matters into their own hands.

OUTRO: Russell Contreras is Axios’ race and justice reporter.

The Heat and the Nuggets matchup in the NBA finals

[crowd cheering]

NIALA: That's some audio I recorded in Miami Monday night as I watched the Heat advance to tonight's game one matchup against the Denver Nuggets in the NBA finals. It's Denver's first and Miami's seventh appearance. It's no surprise who I'm cheering for. And while Denver has steamrolled the competition all season long, the Heat have had to overcome injuries, adversity AND long odds to earn this spot. Axios’ Jeff Tracy is here to talk through the story of how we got here. Hey, Jeff.

JEFF: Hey, Niala.

NIALA: So Miami's the lowest seed to ever make a finals in a full NBA season. Can you remind us some of the challenges the Heat have had to overcome this season?

JEFF: Yeah, of course. I mean, right there it's unprecedented. We have, as you also mentioned, seen the Heat make it here before weather with, uh, you know, early Dwayne Wade era with. The super team era of LeBron James. And then, most recently beyond this season, you know, they were in the bubble, uh, finals against, LeBron James and the Lakers.

This is just, it's something that they do. They find a way to get there, and this is just the craziest season of them all. They had nine undrafted players on their roster and seven of them have, uh, contributed in the playoffs.It's just sort of part of this Heat culture. They get more with less.

And honestly, I think that a big thing for the Heat is the coach and the sort of heart and soul of the team.

So, Eric Spoelstra, one of the longest tenured coaches in the league, and he started as a Heat video coordinator. He came from nothing, was hired up through the ranks and has just instilled this culture of sort of underdog work hard. We take care of our own. We don't really care what the, you know, number on your contract says. We just wanna see that you're gonna work hard, and if you will, we'll put the time in to make you the best that you can be and you're gonna help make us the best.

NIALA: I would be remiss if I didn't say that Denver is also playing a beautiful game of basketball. What makes their star Nikola Jokić so special?

JEFF: I mean, just look at him play. He kind of defies the laws of what you would think a superstar basketball player should be, aside from obviously being seven feet tall. There's not much athleticism there. His feet don't come very high off the ground when he jumps, if he jumps. But his hands are as soft as anyone in the leagues. He's almost certainly at this point, the best passing big man in the history of the game. And you watch him play, and again, it's not like he's flying high above the rim or pulling up for beautiful three pointers. He does take and make very weird looking three pointers that never look like they should go in. But he always knows the right play. He is always in the right position. That is obviously just the kind of guy that can lead any team to a championship you know, that had maybe been one of the knocks on him in recent years.

Obviously he's a two-time MVP, but wasn't able to lead Denver to this promised land. And while they obviously have not gotten over the hump yet for that first title in franchise history, they're closer than they've ever been. And, it's largely on his shoulders.

NIALA: Jeff Tracy, one of the authors of Axios Sports Newsletter. Thanks, Jeff.

JEFF: Thank you Niala.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! Remember you can always text me at (202) 918-4893. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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