Puma issues ultimatum: drop anti-gay songs or lose sponsorship.
Concerts cancelled in Germany, Belgium, UK and USA.
LONDON, 16 August 2004
International sports-clothing giant Puma, a major sponsor of the Jamaican Olympic Team and Jamaican music concerts, has warned reggae singers that the company has a “zero tolerance” policy on homophobia and prejudice.
Puma has warned Buju Banton and other top Jamaican reggae stars that if they include anti-gay content in their concerts, they will not be allowed to perform at Puma-sponsored events and that the brand will terminate any commercial deal they have with them. (see full text of Puma’s statement below)
The warning was provoked by a scheduled Puma-sponsored performance at the trendy Balux Beach Club in Athens, Greece, on Saturday 14 August. Buju Banton and other reggae stars appeared as part of the entertainment laid on for Olympic athletes.
Activists from the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) supported by OutRage! in the UK approached Puma with information about Banton’s songs, like ‘Boom Bye Bye’, which incite the murder of lesbians and gays. (see sample lyrics below)
Shocked by the revelations, the company issued a statement at a press conference in Athens (see full text below) and sent a senior Puma official to inform Banton of Puma’s policy.
Puma recently signed a sponsorship deal with VP records in Jamaica, home to artists like Buju Banton, Elephant Man, and other singers whose ‘murder-music’ encourages and glorifies violence against the lesbian and gay community, especially in Jamaica.
“We are delighted with Puma’s commitment to challenge homophobia in reggae music and in Jamaican society. We hope other companies, such as the record labels, will follow Puma’s positive example and refuse to tolerate music that threatens lesbians and gay men,” says Philipp Braun, of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD)
“We were shocked to learn that a German company like Puma was associating with Buju Banton, who has openly advocated the shooting and burning of gays and lesbians.”
“We immediately contacted Puma and informed them about his murderous lyrics. They agreed he would not be allowed to perform songs like Boom Bye Bye at the Athens concert and that any future homophobic performances would result in no further contracts with Puma,” he adds.
In addition to ensuring that no “kill queers” artists perform under the Puma brand, the company has also pledged to work with lesbian and gay organisations “to challenge homophobic hatred, discrimination and violence in Jamaica and elsewhere.”
“We look forward to working with Puma in the future to find concrete ways to combat homophobia in Jamaica and across the world,” says Mr Braun.
The Jamaican gay rights group J-FLAG said in a statement today that Puma’s stand “sends a powerful message from a major sponsor and sets a precedent for others to follow.” J-FLAG calls on other corporate sponsors of reggae concerts like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Smirnoff Ice and Benson and Hedges to follow Puma’s lead.
“Puma’s stand means that performers like Buju Banton, Elephant Man and others will have to choose between continuing to make antigay incitements to violence and lucrative sponsorship deals,” says Brett Lock of OutRage!.
“They’ll have to decide which is more important: cheerleading harassment and attacks on lesbian and gay people or international superstar status. They may get away with their homophobic bile in Jamaica – where repressive legal discrimination against gay people still exists – but they won’t on the global stage,” he added.
“LSVD’s campaign against Buju Banton’s forthcoming tour of Germany (which includes several top reggae festivals) is already proving a big success,” said Philipp Braun of LSVD.
“Banton’s appearance at the Reggae Jam Festival in Saarbruecken on 3 September was cancelled today and there are active campaigns in Hamburg and other cities to scrap his scheduled concerts,” he added.
“With sponsorships in jeopardy and concert dates cancelled in Germany, Belgium, the UK and the US – plus a police investigation in Britain and legal action planned in Germany – the days when reggae stars could incite homophobic violence with impunity are over,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
For more background on the ‘Stop Murder Music’ campaign, see:
Official Puma Statement
PUMA’s policy does not tolerate hate statements of any sort, including homophobic hatred or views that endorse homophobic violence.
Upon Buju Banton’s arrival in Athens, a senior PUMA staff member will brief him on our zero tolerance policy towards homophobia and other forms of prejudice.
Buju Banton will be told that if he chooses to break this policy he will not be allowed to perform at the Athens show and will no longer be supported by the PUMA brand.
Additionally, if Buju Banton defies this agreement and performs a song using anti-gay lyrics – either at the Athens concert or at any future concert anywhere in the world – PUMA will not associate with him in the future. This also holds true for all performers with which PUMA works.
When speaking with Buju Banton and other artists, specifically in the Jamaican community, we will inform them of our zero tolerance stand on hate statements and lyrics. PUMA will encourage reggae artists to take responsibility for their lyrics and their global impact.
PUMA is committed to working together with lesbian and gay organisations to challenge homophobic hatred, discrimination and violence in Jamaica and elsewhere.
International Marketing Director
Lyrics and translations
Buju Banton – Boom Bye Bye
Boom bye bye
Boom [as in gun sound] goodbye, goodbye [as in we won’t be seeing you again, you’re dead]
Inna batty bwoy head
In a queer’s head
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man
Rude boys don’t promote no queer men
Dem haffi dead
They have to die
Send fi di matic an
Send for the automatic [gun] and
Di Uzi instead
The Uzi instead
Shoot dem no come if we shot dem
Shoot them, don’t come if we shoot them [as in don’t come to help them]
Guy come near we
If a man comes near me
Then his skin must peel
Then his skin must peel [as in pour acid over him]
Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel
Burn him up badly, like you would burn an old tire wheel