The organization that produces New York City’s annual Pride Parade and related events confirmed that it will use Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the opening ceremony for this year’s celebrations, which means that LGBTQ community members who pay to attend that ceremony will be giving their money to a leading funder of anti-LGBTQ elected officials.
“Barclays Center’s size, location, technological capabilities, and stature as a world class arena make it the ideal venue for the WorldPride 2019 Opening Ceremony,” Heritage of Pride (HOP) wrote in a January 30 statement to Gay City News. “It was chosen after a careful months-long site search. LGBTQIA+ folks should certainly consider which businesses deserve our money, but selecting a site for a 15,000-attendee event is not the same as choosing a fast food restaurant. We are confident that the community appreciates the many factors we have to consider when selecting our event venues.”
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary, HOP is hosting WorldPride this year. Its contract with WorldPride requires HOP to produce opening and closing ceremonies. It is producing other events as well, and HOP earlier confirmed that its budget for 2019 is $12 million.
Barclays Center is owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch who also owns the Brooklyn Nets, a basketball team, and has businesses in Russia, though media reports say he had a falling out with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
The arena is managed by AEG Worldwide, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Company, which is a private company that is owned by Philip Anschutz. Anschutz has a long history of funding anti-LGBTQ causes and organizations, including the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council.
His support for such causes and groups was longstanding. In 1992, he gave $10,000 to Colorado for Family Values, the group that sponsored a state ballot initiative that barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in that state from seeking anti-discrimination laws except through a state ballot initiative. That group promoted a yes vote on the initiative by linking lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to pedophilia and the destruction of families, among other ills. The initiative invalidated laws that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in three Colorado cities. The measure passed, but was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1996.
In 2017 and again in 2018, Anschutz or his surrogates issued statements saying that he does not knowingly fund such groups and stops donating to them when he learns they are anti-LGBTQ. In 2018, the website Pitchfork reported that in 2016 the Anschutz Foundation gave donations ranging from $25,000 to $185,000 to five groups that had anti-LGBTQ ideology as part of their mission. Gay City News could not find a more recent Form 990 for that foundation. Those forms list the entities that foundations fund.
His political giving is a separate issue. In 2017 and 2018, Anschutz donated almost exclusively to Republicans, including one or two who are not virulently anti-LGBTQ, but a large amount of his money went to Republican state and federal committees that can support any candidate. Anschutz gave $33,900 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and $150,000 to an NRSC affiliate that donated $7.5 million to state Republican committees. He made smaller donations of $6,450 to 14 state Republican committees and gave $10,000 to the Colorado Republican Committee in 2018.
That HOP would use Barclays Center and spend $12 million this year was discussed at the group’s public meetings in late 2018 that Gay City News did not attend. Confirmation from HOP of the $12 million budget came on January 18 this year and only after David Studinski, one of two HOP co-chairs, refused to answer questions about the group’s plans at HOP’s membership meeting four days earlier. The statement about the Barclay’s Center was issued on January 30.
The Reclaim Pride Coalition, a group that hopes to mount its own march up Sixth Avenue in Manhattan and Central Park rally on the last Sunday in June this year to mark the 50th anniversary, has already criticized HOP’s deal with Barclay’s Center and the $12 million budget.
“Heritage of Pride has a long track record of sucking up to corporations at the expense of those who live and died for LGBTQ+ liberation, but HOP potentially funding our own political enemies, by renting out a property that homophobe Philip Anschutz’s company manages, sinks to a new low, especially on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” Brandon Cuicchi, a Coalition member, said in the press release last year.
The Coalition’s route and rally mirror the route and rally of the 1970 march, the first that commemorated the 1969 Stonewall riots.