Light Wave


From Ben & Jerry’s to Disney: Ranking the Most Controversial Woke Brands

By LightWave Editors · June 25, 2024

The politics of woke have infused much of Corporate America in recent years. From boycotting Israel to Black Lives Matter, scores of major companies have embraced progressive-left politics out of principle, or appeal to a segment of the perceived marketplace, or to keep in step with the most fashionable politics of the moment.

Sometimes woke works. Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban argues progressive politics adds to the bottom line. Sometimes, however, the admonition “go woke, go broke” turns out to be true, as was so disastrously the case with Bud Light and its partnership with trans-activist Dylan Mulvaney.

Michael Jordan, when asked about his view of politics, famously said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

In that spirit, the editors of Light Wave present our picks for the top 15 all-time woke companies.  GoToVan/Wikimedia

1 - Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s, renowned for its extreme political stances, is facing repercussions as its parent company, Unilever, which is separating from its ice cream business, signaling a potential sale. The decision reflects growing tension over Ben & Jerry’s controversial campaigns on international and cultural issues. Critics - and shareholders - contend that Ben & Jerry’s prioritizes politics over profit, highlighting the ongoing clash between business strategy and progressive activism.  Farragutful/Wikimedia

2 - Disney

A leaked video featuring Disney Sr. VP Michael Giordano has sparked controversy over the company's hiring practices. Giordano allegedly stated that Disney explicitly avoids hiring white men for certain roles, citing rigid diversity goals. He claimed that CEO Bob Iger backs diversity in management, casting and elsewhere. The video has reignited debates about Disney's diversity policies, with critics calling for boycotts. The company now faces legal challenges, including a lawsuit alleging violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding discriminatory hiring practices  Coolcaesar/Wikimedia

3 - Bud Light

Bud Light’s sales remain in a slump, down 30% from last year, following its controversial partnership with trans-activist Dylan Mulvaney. Distributors doubt a full recovery, after Anheuser-Busch's attempt to rebrand away from its decades-old "fratty" image backfired. Critics argue the brand injected divisive politics into a simple product, alienating millions of customers. As Bud Light cedes ground to competitors like Modelo Especial, Miller Lite, and Coors Light, its future its not exactly frothy.  MobiusDaXter/Wikimedia

4 - Starbucks

Starbucks has faced boycott calls after a pro-Palestine statement was allegedly posted by Starbucks Workers United in October 2023. The controversy erupted following a now-deleted social media post expressing solidarity with Palestine amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. Florida Sen. Rick Scott chastised Starbucks, urging a boycott until the company denounces the union's stance. Starbucks has distanced itself from the union, emphasizing that Workers United does not represent the company's views and condemning acts of terrorism, hate, and violence.  TylerMascola/Wikimedia

5 - Hershey

Hershey faced backlash for highlighting trans-activist Fae Johnstone in its 2023 International Women's Day campaign. Critics called for a boycott, but Hershey defended its decision, emphasizing the strength in diversity. The "Her for She" promotion features five Canadian women, including Johnstone, celebrated for their community activism. Despite the controversy, Hershey and Johnstone reaffirmed their commitment to inclusivity, with Hershey also pledging $40,000 to support Girl Up's leadership programs for young women.  Antarctic96/Wikimedia

6 - Target

Target's new inclusive move risks a Bud Light-style boycott. The retailer, aiming to support diversity and wellness, has introduced over 1,000 new wellness products. Target has faced political backlash before, including over its controversial 2016 bathroom policy and 2023 Pride merchandise. CEO Brian Cornell acknowledges the risks, emphasizing Target's commitment to inclusivity while navigating a divisive political climate. The company hopes to remain a "happy place" for all customers.  Brainulator9/Wikimedia

7 - Blackrock Investments

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink's focus on ESG activism could negatively impact the firm's core business, the company admitted in its March 2024 regulatory filing. The investment giant’s annual 10-K report disclosed that media scrutiny and differing stakeholder views on ESG could harm its reputation and business. With $700 billion in ESG investments out of $10 trillion total assets, BlackRock faces political polarization over its sustainability programs, particularly from pro-free-market critics and state-run pension funds.  Wikimedia

8 - NFL

The NFL faces criticism for embracing woke policies and alleged discriminatory practices. Critics argue that the league's inclusion of the Black national anthem at the Super Bowl and allowing players to display social justice messages on helmets promotes division rather than unity. The Rooney Rule, which mandates interviewing minority candidates for coaching and executive positions, is viewed by some as a racial quota system that violates federal civil rights laws. Despite these concerns, the NFL continues to promote its DEI initiatives, leading some fans to boycott the league in favor of college football.  Marianne O'Leary/Wikimedia

9 - Coca Cola

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has called out Coca-Cola for quietly removing references to Black Lives Matter from its website following BLM's support of the brutal Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Cruz displayed screenshots showing the company's altered support page, which no longer mentions BLM by name. The senator has demanded an apology from Coca-Cola, insisting that a mere tweak of the beverage giant’s website is woefully insufficient for its reckless support of anti-Jewish politics.  Rundvald/Wikimedia

10 - Nike

Nike is facing backlash for changing the St. George's Cross on England's new football shirt from red to navy, light blue, and purple. Fans have accused the sporting goods giant of being woke. This controversy follows other recent disputes, including a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, exclusion of Lioness Mary Earps's goalkeeper shirt from retail, and past accusations of unethical labor practices. Despite criticisms, Nike continues to pursue its controversial initiatives.  Jim.henderson/Wikimedia

11 - Kellogg’s

Kellogg's is under fire from conservative group America First Legal, which claims the breakfast cereal company's diversity policies are "infused with woke ideology." First Legal has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Kellogg's, accusing it of unlawful employment practices. Criticisms included Kellogg's gender-parity goals and partnerships such as the "Together with Pride" cereal with GLAAD. Kellogg's maintains its commitment to diversity are in compliance with employment laws.  Jim.henderson/Wikimedia

12 - Mattel

Mattel has launched "Scrabble Together," a new, inclusive version of the classic game designed to make wordplay less intimidating. This controversial update to the iconic board game features goal and helper cards, encouraging teamwork and collaboration. Available only in Europe, it is the first significant change to Scrabble in its 76-year history. The revised version is designed to reduced the competitive quality of the game and conform with the everyone-is-a-winner philosophy.  Jelson25/Wikimedia

13 - MLB

For three long years, Major League Baseball has been under pressure to apologize to the State of Georgia for pushing a misleading narrative about the state’s voting laws. Back in 2021, the league abruptly moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver over false claims of “restrictive” voting laws in the Peach State. Acknowledging the error of its ways, the MLB recently announced that the 2025 All-Star Game will take place in Atlanta.  Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

14 - Hasbro

Hasbro is updating Monopoly's Community Chest cards for the first time in 85 years to reflect more modern sensibilities. Outdated prompts like winning a "beauty contest" will be replaced with contemporary scenarios such as rescuing a shelter pet or shopping locally. In fall 2024, Hasbro will debut the updated cards, which will emphasize community service and social responsibility.  Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

15 - Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has faced heated controversy after a federal judge ordered it to reinstate a flight attendant fired for posting anti-abortion messages on her social media. The judge mandated religious freedom training for Southwest's attorneys. The decision has sparked debate over religious discrimination and free speech in the workplace. Southwest plans to appeal, risking potential backlash from customers who may perceive the company as either discriminatory or overly woke.

(This content was created with the help of AI, and edited by a human.)  Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia