McDonald’s has faced a typhoon of backlash from LGBT rights advocates for launching a #CheersToSochi hashtag on Twitter, in preparation for the upcoming Winter Olympics; the hashtag was soon hijacked by LGBT advocates and used to form a discussion about the anti-gay situation in Russia.
“We’re kicking off a way to send your well wishes to any Olympian today,” McDonald’s wrote in the original tweet. “Are you ready to send your #CheersToSochi?”
The hashtag was launched with the intention of using it as a method of communicating support for the participating athletes, but campaigners and Twitter users decided to use it to reveal the disappointment and outrage they shared regarding the current situation in Russia.
LGBT supporters also took the opportunity to further shame the fast-food chain for its sponsorship of the games. As the Consumerist reported on January 24, a search for the #CheersToSochi tag turns up a massive number of protest Tweets directed toward McDonald’s and other big-name Olympics sponsors, such as Coca-Cola.
“No #CheersToSochi,” one user tweeted.
According to another, “In Sochi, a Big Mac is what they call a goon who pummels gay people while police look on approvingly. #CheersToSochi.”
LGBT rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, have asked many major endorsers of the 2014 games to reconsider association with the event, given the discriminatory policies that were recently passed.
McDonald’s didn’t respond to any of the Tweets, although they did issue a pretty standard statement to the Chicago Tribune:
“McDonald’s supports human rights, the spirit of the Olympics and all the athletes who’ve worked so hard to compete in the Games… We believe the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes.”