Because the obesity rate for African Americans in New York City is higher than the average, and because city health department officials said that minority neighborhoods could benefit the most from a rule limiting the sale of large soft drinks, some expected the city’s NAACP to support it. Not so.
As lawyers for the beverage industry argued that the board of health had gone too far with the new rule, the civil rights group was right there with them, the New York Times reports. The reasons, it seems, are complicated:
… But the N.A.A.C.P. has close ties to big soft-drink companies, particularly Coca-Cola, whose longtime Atlanta law firm, King & Spalding, wrote the amicus brief filed by the civil rights group in support of a lawsuit aimed at blocking Mr. Bloomberg’s soda rules, which are set to take effect in March.
Coca-Cola has also donated tens of thousands of dollars to a health education program, Project HELP, developed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The brief describes that program, but not the financial contributions of the beverage company. The brief was filed jointly with another organization, the Hispanic Federation, whose former president, Lillian Rodríguez López, recently took a job at Coca-Cola.
The N.A.A.C.P.’s New York office referred questions to the American Beverage Association, the soft-drink industry’s lobbying group and the primary plaintiff in the suit against the city’s new soda rules. The association referred questions to Coca-Cola, which did not immediately respond …
In its brief, the N.A.A.C.P. conceded that obesity was a significant problem among blacks and Hispanics. But the group urged the city to create a more holistic program to attack the problem, including an increase in financing for physical education programs in public schools.
Mr. Bloomberg’s plan, the brief argued, would disproportionately hurt minority-owned small businesses, which faced competition from larger convenience stores like 7-Eleven that would be exempt from the soda restrictions because of a quirk in New York’s regulatory structure.
Read more at the New York Times.