Decathlon Turkey faces social media backlash over gay pride post

The Turkish branch of French sportswear retailer Decathlon faced boycott calls on social media Friday over its posts supporting gay pride month.

The hashtag, #DecathlonBoykot (“Boycott Decathlon”), was trending on Twitter after the company’s messages supporting equality in the workplace on Instagram and LinkedIn.

“There is room for every colour in Decathlon,” Decathlon Career’s Turkey page said on June 1, with a rainbow emoji to celebrate LGBT Pride month.

“Regardless of gender identity or orientation, we support diversity and inclusion in an equal working environment for everyone,” it said, using the hashtags #Loveislove and #Pride.

Angry comments with a boycott call began trending on social media Thursday but rather than backing down, Decathlon ramped up support for the LGBT community.

“The reaction and comments to our posts really shocked and saddened us,” Decathlon Turkey said on Twitter.

“We are against all kinds of discrimination. As Decathlon Turkey, regardless of religion, language, race, sexuality, gender identity or orientation, we have an environment where everyone can express and be themselves, and we’re proud of this.”

Some Turkish tweeters pointed to the retailer’s “hypocrisy” after it was forced by public pressure to back down from a plan to sell a runner’s hijab in France last year.

“Why are you not as sensitive to Muslim athletes?” one Twitter user said.

Another one with over 180,000 followers said: “We will not allow Decathlon Turkey to promote LGBT. Personally, I will boycott Decathlon.”

Somebody tweeted: “Anyone who shops here is not one of us!”

Pro-government daily Sabah’s columnist Hilal Kaplan also called for a boycott on Twitter.

While homosexuality has been legalised, gay people frequently face harassment and abuse in the Muslim-majority country.

LGBT events including Istanbul Pride have been banned in recent years, as critics point to a creeping conservatism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey is formally secular but the head of the state-funded religious body, Diyanet, claimed homosexuality caused diseases during a weekly sermon in April.

Erdogan, who leads an Islamic-rooted party, defended the religious official and legal complaints were filed against groups which had criticised the Diyanet chief.