Opinion: what is the Coachella controversy?

Alex Larson

It seems that every year when the Coachella lineup is posted, the controversy associated with the music festival’s owner is brought up. Philip Anschutz, owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates Coachella, time and time again has been found to donate to groups that are anti-LGBTQ, pro-gun and anti-marijuana.

According to Forbes, Philip Anschutz has a net worth of $11 billion, as of March 11, 2019. Anschutz first gained his wealth from oil and gas as the owner of Anschutz Exploration Corporation, which publicly supports the Keystone XL pipeline.

Eventually Anschutz moved onto the entertainment industry, buying Goldenvoice, the company that operates Coachella, among others. Also, he now owns stocks in the LA Clippers, the Lakers and the Staples Center.

According to The Fader, the billionaire gave nearly $200,000 to politicians and Super PACs. Recipients of his donations included pro-gun senator Cory Gardner, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman. Coffman has come to to say that he isn’t sure if Obama was born in the U.S. Additionally, the Anschutz Corporation gave $138,000 to the National Republican Senate Committee.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering what an old conservative man is doing organizing Coachella, whose headliners include Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce. These celebrities make their views very clear, which are opposing those which Anschutz financially supports.

Anschutz has responded to claims that he is a “bigot” and should not be financially supported. He issued this statement to the Fader.

“Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news – it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us – the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.”

While the sentiment seems nice, it is hard to believe Anschutz when himself and his companies give so much money to organizations that support conversion therapy and creationism. It should also be noted that crying “fake news” and “garbage” can’t be accepted as a real argument from an adult.

While doing my research about Anschutz, Coachella and Anschutz’s money, I found that Coachella has a number of sustainability initiatives. This seems contradictory to the anti-climate change organizations and politicians that Anschutz financially supports. When I looked into it, I was not impressed.

According to Coachella’s sustainability webpage, you can send in ideas for the best decorated recycling can! The website also suggests you bring in reusable water bottles, however the festival does not allow steel, aluminum, metal or glass bottles. But don’t worry, because you can carpool or make a poster while at the festival. So creative.

What it comes down to is that while Anschutz may claim to support people from all walks of life, he needs to put his money where his mouth is, because he literally can. If he truly cared about the LGBTQ community, he could donate to the Trevor Project, the Howard Brown Health Center, the Transgender Law Center or the Ali Forney Center, among others. If he truly cared, he has the means to prove it, and actions speak louder than words.

There is kind of a catch 22 for people who want to go to Coachella. They want to support artists that are speaking their minds on the very causes that Anschutz funds against, but should they be giving even more money to a man that’s just going to spend it on coal, oil and private schools?

I can’t make decisions for you. However, if we were to make this more of an issue, then maybe artists would stop going or bring up the issue. If enough artists and fans were to make noise, then maybe things would change.

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