Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Miller, Folsom fair apologize for poster

NEWS


h.cassell@ebar.com

Miller Brewing Company and Folsom Street Events want to move beyond the controversy generated by this year's fair promotional poster.
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Miller Brewing Company has again apologized for the brouhaha surrounding the Folsom Street Fair's leather Last Supper-inspired poster, and this time, producers of the fair joined in the announcement issued to communities that were offended by the artwork.

Miller, a major financial sponsor of the fair, and Folsom Street Events, producers of the event, denied that the formal apology, issued late last month, was in response to the Catholic League's organized boycott of Miller products.

"Our apology was not to one community or one organization," said Julian Green, director of media relations for Miller. "[It] was issued to anyone who was offended or [felt] disrespected by the poster. We heard from a great number of consumers across the United States – Catholic, Christian, and others – including some members of the LGBT community."

Miller first issued an apology shortly after the controversy was widely reported in late September, just before the annual Folsom Street Fair.

The latest mea culpa came on October 26, when Miller apologized for the leather-themed Last Supper poster and announced that the company completed an "exhaustive audit" of its procedures for approving local marketing and sales sponsorships and its plan to tighten compliance of the company's procedures.

Demetri Moshoyannis, executive director of Folsom Street Events, told the Bay Area Reporter the organization let Miller take the lead with the apology.

"To some extent we let Miller take the lead on issuing the statement because really it was mostly Miller coming under fire and not us," Moshoyannis said.

As previously reported, Miller's national office did not review the Folsom fair poster before thousands of copies of the fair program and promotional materials were distributed with the leather Last Supper image and Miller's logo.

Moshoyannis was adamant that Folsom Street Events wasn't apologizing for the leather-themed Last Supper poster itself.

"I think that it's important to read exactly what the apology says," said Moshoyannis. "If you notice, I was very clear that we were not going to apologize for our community [and] not apologize for the poster, per say. What we were apologizing for was for anyone who felt they were offended as a result."

In a statement, Nehl Horton, senior vice president of Miller, said, "We deeply regret that we did not adhere to our own policies with regard to the Folsom Street Fair. ... We apologize to everyone we offended as a result."

Andrew Copper, president of the Folsom fair board, added, "Miller Brewing was never afforded the opportunity to review our fair poster before it was printed and distributed. The approval was made by a third party without Miller's knowledge or consent."

Copper also issued an apology on behalf of the organization. "I would like to apologize to anyone who felt that the image was disrespectful to their religious beliefs. No malicious intent was involved," he said in the statement.

Green told the B.A.R. that Miller found "instances of concern" in the audit, but wouldn't specify the communities or events in question. He said only that Miller planned to move forward with implementing its marketing policy, which isn't yet available to the public.

"When the company rolls out the new program we will be happy to make people aware so our partners will be in compliance," said Green.

Folsom Street Events received Miller's marketing policies and agreed to comply, according to the release.

Chris Glaser, interim senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco, was more critical about the apology.

"One of the Miller spokespeople is quoted as saying, 'But when one group actively disrespects another, we cannot support its events and activities.' I wonder if that means they will stop supporting events of religious groups that actively disrespect LGBT people," said Glaser.

When the B.A.R. asked Green why letters were sent to Catholic Archbishops George H. Niederauer of San Francisco and Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, Green said, "Both archbishops of San Francisco and Milwaukee shared concerns to Miller ... that's why we sent a letter of courteousness to both archbishops."

Miller Brewing Company is based in Milwaukee.

In an October 5 article in Catholic San Francisco, the weekly newspaper of the archdiocese, Niederauer said, "Discrimination and prejudice have varied targets: race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. Hence, we believe that people who ridicule the religious symbols and expressions of others have much in common with those who trade in social or ethnic slurs."

Niederauer currently is under fire by anti-gay Christian organizations for giving Communion to two Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence last month.

Niederauer was unavailable for comment at press time.

A chaplain and longtime member of the Defenders in San Francisco, a leather group within the LGBT Catholic organization Dignity USA, was pleased with the apology from Miller and Folsom Street Events.

In a November 1 phone interview from Hawaii, Patrick, who declined to give his last name, said that he was offended by the poster. While he supports Folsom Street Events, he told the B.A.R. that he wouldn't have attended the fair this year, even if he wasn't traveling at the time.

"I was hurt by the poster because it didn't represent me as a spiritual person," said Patrick. "Since [Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper is] such a dear icon or symbol to Christians around the country ... I respect Miller for apologizing to people they offended."

Moshoyannis said that this year's fair events raised close to $345,000, surpassing last year's total of $301,512.

Boycott called off

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which organized an estimated 200 Catholic and Christian organizations last month to boycott Miller, viewed the apology as a victory. The anti-gay organization called off its boycott in an October 31 news release.

"From the beginning of the Folsom Street Fair controversy, the position of the Catholic League has been that it was insufficient for the Miller Brewing Company to simply apologize for the misappropriation of its logo on an offensive Last Supper promotional poster," stated Donohue. "What we wanted was an acknowledgment that there were other extremely disturbing anti-Catholic aspects to this event. We have now secured that missing piece."

Miller stands by LGBT community

Green of Miller insisted the company would continue to support the LGBT community.

"Miller continues to be committed to the LGBT community," said Green, "and we plan to move forward with our support of the community with various events across the country. At the end of the day we have to make sure that the events that we sponsor are in compliance [and] the events are not disrespectful of other communities."

Green and Moshoyannis said that it was too soon to tell whether the apology was a sign of what future sponsorship of LGBT events would look like once the merger between beer giants Miller and Coors is completed in 2008.

After a meeting late last month with national and local representatives of Miller, Moshoyannis said he felt confident about MillerÕs continued sponsorship of the Folsom Street Fair.

"We've received assurances that they are not pulling out of the event," said Moshoyannis. "They understand who we are and what we do."

Moshoyannis added, "I'm hoping we can put it all behind us."






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