Metro Weekly

Shareholders Pressure Best Buy to Stop LGBTQ Donations

An email exchange shows right-wing shareholders pressured Best Buy to halt donations to LGBTQ organizations.

Best Buy – Photo: Mike Mozart, via Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Electronics retail giant Best Buy offered to screen donations from its employee resource groups going to LGBTQ organizations or causes after being pressured by a conservative think tank that holds shares in the company.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing recently made public, Best Buy engaged in a months-long email exchange with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a self-described “nonpartisan, free-market conservative think tank.” 

In those emails, which began on December 11, 2023, NCPPR sent the company a shareholder proposal asking the retailer to produce — and distribute at its annual shareholder meeting in June — a report analyzing how its partnerships with LGBTQ organizations benefit the company’s business, according to NBC News

NCPPR specifically took issue with Best Buy’s partnerships and donations to “organizations and activists that promote the practice of gender transition surgeries on minors and evangelize gender theory to minors.”

Among those are an ongoing partnership Best Buy has with the Human Rights Campaign, contributions the company made to The Trevor Project, and its sponsorship of the publication of the book Our Gay History in 50 States

“Why are Best Buy shareholders funding the proliferation of an ideology seeking to mutilate the reproductive organs of children before they finish puberty?” reads the proposal, signed by Ethan Peck, an associate at the NCPPR’s Free Enterprise Institute. “This contentious and vast disagreement between radical gender theory activists and the general public has nothing to do with Best Buy selling electronics.”

NCPPR’s proposal also points to decreases in revenue and stock prices of Bud Light, Target, and The Walt Disney Company that occurred after right-wing activists targeted the companies for partnering with a transgender influencer, for selling rainbow or Pride-themed merchandise, and speaking out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“Considering Best Buy contributes to multiple organizations and activists that advance the very agenda that so disastrously affected Disney, Target, and Bud Light, such contributions pose a clear risk to Best Buy shareholders as well,” Peck concludes in the proposal.

In an email dated January 17, Peck told Best Buy’s attorneys that NCPPR would withdraw its proposal if the company agreed to end any existing partnerships with — and stop contributing to — eight different LGBTQ entities: The Trevor Project, Our Gay History in 50 States, GLAAD, GLSEN, GenderCool, SAGE, the It Gets Better Project, and Centerlink, a network of LGBTQ community centers.

Peck also refers to the named organizations as “predatory butchers” and claims that their agendas are divisive to the American public. He argues that Best Buy should avoid taking stances — including through which organizations it donates to — on divisive issues as part of a duty to its shareholders.

“We’re giving you an off-ramp here to quietly leave smaller organizations (as we understand that it’s unrealistic for Best Buy to leave HRC in the near future due to their political clout),” Peck wrote. “We hope you take this off-ramp for the sake of shareholders. Were Best Buy to agree to such a compromise with us, we will not make a splash about it.”

In a February 5 email, Marina Rizzo, a Best Buy attorney, told Peck that the company hadn’t donated to The Trevor Project or Our Gay History in 50 States in several years and has never donated to the other six named organizations.

But she also offered to screen donations from individual employee organizations — including Best Buy’s PRIDE group for LGBTQ employees — “to ensure they do not advocate or support the causes or agendas you have identified as concerning.”

Peck subsequently followed up that email with demands about why Best Buy stopped donating to the LGBTQ organizations or causes, why they’re still listed as sponsors of such organizations. He demanded proof that donations to the named organizations have stopped. 

As reported by NBC News, a page on the company’s website titled “See how Best Buy is supporting the LGBTQIA+ community” has since been taken down, though an archived version can be viewed on the Internet Archive.

Similarly, a page on the company’s website mentioning its support of Our Gay History in 50 States is also no longer available.

While it’s unclear whether an agreement was ever reached between Best Buy and NCPPR, the latter organization withdrew its shareholder proposal on March 22. It will not be presented at Best Buy’s annual shareholder meeting.

No additional information about how the company would be screening donations made by its employee resource groups was mentioned.

The exchange between Best Buy and the NCPPR highlights how conservative groups have attempted to exert pressure on major corporations to pull their public support for LGBTQ causes by effectively threatening them with the possibility of large-scale boycotts or public relations fiascoes.

In response to a request for comment, Peck declined to share details of his communication with Best Buy, but confirmed to NBC News that the NCPPR has sent similar proposals to other major corporations.

In response to an inquiry from NBC News, Charly Charlson, a spokesperson for Best Buy, responded, “At Best Buy, we strongly believe in an inclusive work environment with a culture of belonging where everyone feels valued and has the opportunity to thrive. This commitment is evident through our longstanding and continuing support of organizations like HRC, which has recognized us as one of the best places to work for the LGBTQIA+ community for the past 18 years.”

Charlson sent a follow-up email, adding, “Nothing has changed in the ways we give to LGBTQIA+ organizations.”

LGBTQ organizations were, unsurprisingly, aghast at the release of the email correspondence, blasting Best Buy for appearing to try to placate NCPPR’s demands.

“The news of this SEC filing is very concerning, and we are working in partnership with Best Buy to understand more,” Eric Bloem, HRC’s vice president of programs and corporate advocacy, told NBC. “Any company that uses their Corporate Equality Index distinction as cover while working with fringe groups and bad actors does not reflect true LGBTQ+ allyship in the corporate space.”

“Executives at Best Buy ought to be ashamed of how they turned their backs on their LGBTQ and ally employees and consumers,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “They know what they did was wrong, or they would not have tried to hide this cowardly, toxic corporate takeover inside an ordinary SEC filing.”

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