How different companies have handled backlash against their LGBTQ+ initiatives

Some brands have backed away from inclusive initiatives, fearful of conservative backlash, while others have stood their ground

Protestors and Pride merch at Target
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

June 1 marked the start of Pride Month, a time when many companies and brands enact inclusive initiatives or product lines in honor of LGBTQ+ communities nationwide. Recently, however, such corporate projects have been increasingly enveloped by a swell of (mostly) conservative and far-right backlash, pushing companies to either acquiesce and roll back their plans or weather the storm and stand strong in their support.

Below, we've rounded up a few brands that have found themselves at the center of a Pride-related revolt and how they've responded.


Target, one of the nation's largest retailers, recently rolled out a large section of LGBTQ+ clothing and other inclusive products for Pride Month, something they have been doing for a while. In 2023, however, the Pride section drew the ire of conservatives, with some on the right calling for a boycott of Target. Many conservative pundits backed the proposed boycott, with former GOP congressional candidate Robby Starbuck saying women should tell "friends they won't shop there because Target pushed trans products onto little kids," Newsweek reported.

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Following the backlash, Target announced it would pull some of its pride merchandise from shelves. However, the company said in a press release that they were pulling the products not because of the boycott itself, but because they've "experienced threats impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being while at work." The company added that it was "moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community."


In perhaps the most nationally recognized incident, conservatives called for a boycott of Anheuser-Busch after transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney partnered with Bud Light for an advertisement. Notable faces on the right, like Kid Rock and Travis Kitt, openly lashed out against the beer brand as a result. Even former President Donald Trump — who owns up to $5 million in Anheuser-Busch stock, Insider reported — weighed in on the drama.

Anheuser-Busch's CEO eventually apologized without directly mentioning the Mulvaney campaign, saying the company "never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people." It seems conservatives did not accept the apology, though, as Bud Light's sales have continued to drop. Anheuser-Busch was then subsequently slammed by LGBTQ+ rights groups for backing down from the mob, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation removed the company's top inclusivity rating.


For months, the Mouse House has been involved in a high-profile dispute with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that has since spilled into the courts. The feud began last year when Disney publicly opposed DeSantis' controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, commonly known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

After Disney — the state's largest employer — stood up to the governor, conservatives called for a boycott of the company's namesake theme park. Unlike Anheuser-Busch, however, Disney has managed to continue park operations seemingly unscathed. And instead of pivoting away from its LGBTQ+ initiatives, the company has instead leaned into its plans and is hosting a Pride Month event at Disneyland in June.


Nike, one of the world's most iconic athletic brands, sparked conservative fury after partnering with Dylan Mulvaney, the same transgender influencer embroiled in the Anheuser-Busch scandal, to promote the company's line of women's workout wear. As a result, some on the right started a "burn bra challenge" that encouraged consumers to destroy their Nike sports bras.

Unlike that of Anheuser-Busch, however, the Nike boycott did not seem to gain traction online, similar to how prior "calls to destroy the company's products typically have been short-lived," Insider reported. Also unlike Anheuser-Busch, Nike has not apologized for upsetting certain customers. "Hate speech, bullying, or other behaviors that are not in the spirit of a diverse and inclusive community will be deleted," the brand wrote regarding comments on its Instagram, where it also encouraged people to "be kind" and "be inclusive."

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Justin Klawans

Justin Klawans is a staff writer at The Week. Based in Chicago, he was previously a breaking news reporter for Newsweek, writing breaking news and features for verticals including politics, U.S. and global affairs, business, crime, sports, and more. His reporting has been cited on many online platforms, in addition to CBS' The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

He is also passionate about entertainment and sports news, and has covered film, television, and casting news as a freelancer for outlets like Collider and United Press International, as well as Chicago sports news for Fansided.