Delta, Coke face boycott campaigns over new Georgia voting law

Critics say Atlanta companies didn’t do enough to halt restrictions
Voting-rights activists call for a boycott of Delta Air Lines during a protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, March 25, 2021. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

Voting-rights activists call for a boycott of Delta Air Lines during a protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, March 25, 2021. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, two of Atlanta’s biggest brands, are facing consumer boycott threats after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed new voting restrictions into law last week.

Social media posts carrying the hashtags #BoycottDelta, #BoycottDeltaAirlines and #BoycottCocaCola proliferated on Twitter as critics of the Republican-backed legislation accused the two Atlanta-based companies of not having done enough to stop its passage.

While voting rights advocates called for companies to condemn the Republican initiative in recent weeks, Delta issued carefully worded statements on the importance of ensuring a “fair, secure elections process.” After the legislation passed, Delta issued a statement Friday that appeared to defend the bill that passed because it was less restrictive than earlier versions.

On the weekend, #BoycottDelta was one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter. As of Monday night, it had been used in more than 38,000 tweets since March 23. #BoycottCocaCola was used in more than 34,000 tweets.

Sports and political commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted over the weekend and Monday calling for boycotts of Coca-Cola and Delta, and advocating for baseball’s All-Star Game to be moved from Atlanta. “Do not fly Delta. Do not spend money with Delta. Boycott Delta. Ruin Delta,” he tweeted.

Late Monday, Alfredo Rivera, the president of Coke’s North America unit, sent a note to the company’s employees, saying of Georgia’s voting law changes, “While we are disappointed in the outcome, we don’t see this as the final chapter.” He said Coke “will continue to push for greater access to voting through advocacy at the federal level, where we expect to see more proposals this year aimed at expanding voter access. We will also continue to press for improvements to Georgia’s election laws in future sessions.”

The Coke executive said the company had “opposed measures that would seek to diminish or restrict voter access” and that voting in the U.S. is “a sacred right and duty, and we recognize we have a responsibility to protect it and promote it.”

The leaders of the AME Sixth Episcopal District said last week they would call for a statewide boycott of Coke for not doing enough to halt new restrictions. Bishop Reginald Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wanted to send the message that if “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives and our very democracy as we know it is under attack.”

Delta stood Monday by its statement from Friday, when it said it had “engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process.”

The legislation, Delta said Friday, “improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason. For the first time drop boxes have also been authorized for all counties statewide and poll workers will be allowed to work across county lines.”

The airline added in its Friday statement, “Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation.”

Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown tweeted Sunday questioning whether Kemp’s communications team or others wrote Delta’s statement.

“Every news outlet in the world is calling out the voter suppression bill and you are claiming the bill expands access? This is terrible, untrue AND disrespectful!” Brown tweeted.

-Staff reporter Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.