AT the 1984 Super Bowl in America, Apple released one of the most iconic advertisements of all time; a cinematic commercial directed by Ridley Scott that portrayed the company as smashing conformity and changing the world. It was a landmark moment in the history of advertising that established a trend we can all recognise today, of selling the lifestyle that comes with owning a product as opposed to the benefits of the product itself.

This was the birthplace of brands becoming aware that adopting socially progressive values, whether sincerely or otherwise, could be an incentive to have consumers choose their product over a competitor’s. Sure, there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism, but THIS brand says it’s doing its bit for the environment so surely it can’t all be bad. Right?

Well, not exactly. The goal ultimately with any brand is to sell you a product or service, and it may wrap themselves in a socially progressive flag that doesn’t necessarily mean its behaviour matches the vision of itself that it want to sell to the public.

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And so we come to the ongoing fall-out around Uefa’s decision to block attempts to light up the Allianz Arena in Munich with rainbow colours during Pride month. Ahead of the Euro 2020 match between Germany and Hungary, the German government requested the stadium be lit up in an act of solidarity with Hungary’s LGBTQ+ community.

Hungary has recently passed anti-LGBT legislation that bans the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s own little homily to Britain’s Section 28. This legislation, tacked on to a bill against paedophilia, will mean that LGBTQ+ identities will not be acknowledged or tolerated in an educational setting, with heterosexual relationships becoming the only ones that will be taught about. Gay characters will also be banned from any film, TV or commercial that children might see, functionally pushing any and all gay representation past the watershed.

The anti-gay trope, that we somehow pose a threat to under-18s, is an old one and is just one strand of Hungary’s increasingly hostile attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community. This was the context within which authorities in Munich made the request to fly the Pride flag – and which Uefa denied.

The football governing body justified its decision on the grounds that such a gesture would be “political”, but the decision to ensure Hungary’s behaviour would pass without comment is an equally political act.

Uefa wants to sell itself as a progressive brand. It wants the financial benefits of being seen as standing on the right side of history – and it wants that without any of the heavy lifting that that kind of role really comes with. It’s easier to slap a rainbow flag on a product and tweet a hashtag about football for everyone than it is to do the actual work that makes the world a better place for any minority group.

Uefa is by no means the only one guilty of this. Plenty of major businesses are happy to give themselves a lick of rainbow paint in the hope they can cover up the many ways in which they exploit or harm LGBTQ people.

Take for example British Airways, which in 2018 sponsored the UK’s largest Pride parade while simultaneously co-operated with the deporting of refused LGBT asylum seekers back to countries where their sexuality came with a potential death sentence. Or the pharmaceutical company Gilead, which sponsored New York Pride while charging uninsured Americans thousands of dollars a month to access PrEP medicine.

OR Disney, which made a big deal out of a blink-and-you’d-miss-it same-sex kiss between two background characters in the most recent Star Wars movie in the hope of getting LGBT fans into the cinema, only for them to find the futile gesture placed at a point in the movie that could easily be removed when being screened in countries where homosexuality is still illegal (and that’s exactly what happened).

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Big brands exist to make money. A shocker of a statement, I know. But there is no movement for change, no big idea, no genuinely important cultural lynchpin that won’t ultimately be absorbed into the capitalist machine, sanitised and used to sell you soda. In its response, Uefa justified its decision by claiming that the rainbow flag is “not a political symbol” – a statement that perfectly represents how these kinds of huge organisations view movements such Pride; not as a political protest, but as a commodity.

This performative allyship is, in the scheme of things, useless. While it may be indicative of broader societal progress and acceptance, it should not be overlooked that the corporate absorption of radical symbols like the rainbow is only possible because, in this country, there is no real backlash to being supportive of LGBTQ equality (unless you vocally support trans equality, but that’s a whole other column).

That’s why the various Twitter flags and slogans that pop up briefly on major corporation’s social media every year for Pride month are absent in countries where making a declaration of support for LGBTQ+ people would come with a real price tag.Uefa did make a political choice, even if it doesn’t want to admit it. Given the option between standing with a marginalised community and potentially upsetting a vocally anti-equality regime, or staying silent in the face of bigotry, it picked the latter.