The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—spanning two weekends every April—is known for the impressive line-up of musicians it hosts and the star-studded crowds it attracts. Every year, about 200,000 people attend Coachella in the middle of the Californian desert.
Coachella seems to be a festival that embodies freedom of expression; concert-goers dress in over-the-top outfits and trek through the desert all day to listen to music and admire art. There’s a general unspoken consensus of no rules—everyone just wants to be themselves and see their favorite artists perform.
Beneath all the news coverage on performances, arts and fashion, there’s a deeper issue not being talked about enough. Coachella’s founder—billionaire Philip Anschutz—has been funding multiple groups that are openly and aggressively anti-LGBTQ+.
Art and music should be a safe space, which is why it is so puzzling that Anschutz has been supporting groups that go against the carefree and accepting atmosphere of Coachella for years.
Between 2010 and 2013, Anschutz gave a staggering $190,000 to anti-LGBTQ+ groups, according to Pitchfork Magazine. These donations were confirmed by the release of Anschutz’s tax filings. The three main controversial groups Anschutz donated to were Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council and National Christian Foundation.
To put things into perspective, Alliance Defending Freedom was officially listed as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Other groups on this list include the Westboro Baptist Church, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups—just to name a few. The other two groups that Anschutz donated to are also hateful toward the LGBTQ+ community.
When Anschutz’s donations to these groups became public knowledge, he received immediate backlash. Talks of boycotting Coachella prompted a public statement from Anschutz, in which he said that he “unequivocally support[s] the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.”
Anschutz went on to explain that he stopped donating to these groups in 2016 after learning of their anti-LGBTQ+ agendas. It is hard to believe that anyone—even a billionaire—would give out almost $200,000 to multiple groups without really knowing what their agendas are.
With all this public knowledge, there’s a battle of morality that goes on when purchasing a Coachella ticket. Some argue that the festival should be boycotted altogether.
The exciting promise of seeing stars like Ariana Grande and Beyoncé is dimmed by knowing where some of the ticket money is really going, and boycotting the festival could certainly be a solution. Some artists, however, are taking advantage of Coachella’s enormous platform to push back against the views of the man that founded it.
Singer and songwriter Lizzo—who is known for her activism and support of the LGBTQ+ community suggests an active approach to the issue.
On her Instagram profile, Lizzo recognized the issues with Coachella being owned by Anschutz and added that many major organizations are owned by “bigoted millionaires who donate to bigoted organizations.”
Lizzo plans to use Coachella to “dismantle the hate that funds this country … and until then, imma be putting big, black, femme, LGBTQ+ bodies on stages and telling our stories.”
Whether one decides to boycott Coachella or utilize it as a platform to spread positivity, everyone should be aware of Anschutz’s anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments before they consider supporting his festival.