Coachella Owner Supports anti-gay, anti-trans organizations

By Alexa Stiles

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       In a crowd of aestheticized hippedom and flower-child attire, the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California embraces a free-spirited style as it promotes social liberty and its trademark “festival fashion”. The enormously profitable and ultra-popular spring music festival seems to be an open minded event, but it is run by a company and a man that is the complete opposite.

       Philip Anschutz, is the owner of Coachella and head of AEG Live (Anschutz Entertainment Group), the parent company of Goldenvoice, which launched Coachella. Anschutz actively supports anti-gay, anti-transgender, pro-life, and climate change denialist groups and organizations, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.

       Anschutz faced criticism for donating up to $190,000 to conservative groups between 2010 and 2013, although he claimed that it was “fake news” in a statement to Rolling Stone.

       “Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives…and when it has come to my attention or the attention of the Anschutz Foundation that certain organizations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups,” Anschutz said.

       Despite his claim that he never intended to fund groups promoting inequality, according to Fader, Anschutz gave nearly $200,000 to right-wing politicians, including pro-gun Colorado Senator Cory Gardner; and pro-life Colorado Representatives Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman.

       According to a report from Pitchfork, the Anschutz Foundation continues to fund right-wing organizations with extremely conservative views as part of $63.7 in million grants distributed in 2016. Although it was revealed that the Foundation stopped donating to the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, they continue to support a number of conservative groups, including The Navigators and Young Life, which are organizations with anti-LGBTQ agendas.

       Anschutz’s conservative agenda is hypocritical of the spirit of freedom that is encompassed in events like Coachella. Music festivals allow people to openly express themselves and give them the opportunity to socialize with friends in an inclusive community, but given the reality, is it really worth it knowing that the profits support someone with discriminatory actions?  

       People have heavily criticized Anschutz and his Foundation, and gone to social media to urge festival-goers to “boycott Coachella”. However, despite the controversy, thousands of people are expected to attend Coachella in April 2018, where they will immerse themselves in the formed aesthetic of bohemian style flower crowns and infamous cultural appropriation.

       Anschutz’s questionable politics and offensive style trends both contribute to the Coachella controversy. The festival’s free-spirited style often exploits other people’s cultures or adopts cultural stereotypes without honoring them.

       Over the years, people attending Coachella have been seen wearing veils and headdresses (traditionally worn by Muslim women), traditional African attire, Hindu bindis, and Native American accessories. Wearing someone else’s culture as a “festival edge” fashion statement is an example of casual racism and promotes offensive trends, as people fail to acknowledge the boundaries between appreciation and appropriation.

       Before purchasing a Coachella ticket, be aware of the organizations that the funds are going to.