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Emily Tian
By Emily Tian July 23, 2021

Coca-Cola’s stock didn’t tank from a race-related boycott

If Your Time is short

  • Coca-Cola’s market value dropped by$4 billion on June 14, the day that international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was moved two bottles of Coke to the side in favor of water during a European Football Championship press conference.

  • An expert said it’s  difficult to prove causation related to stock price movements, but that it’s not likely the June drop was triggered by criticism that flared months earlier in February after news broke that Coke’s employee diversity training included a message telling people to “try to be less white.”

After Coca-Cola’s market value dropped $4 billion in mid-June, one Facebook post claimed that the loss was due to a boycott against the company in response to news that its employee diversity training included a message telling people to  "try to be less white." 

"Coca-Cola has lost $4 bil in market value as people are boycotting Coke for their ‘try to be less White’ statement," the post reads. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

In late February, a whistleblower shared images of a diversity and inclusion training course for Coca-Cola’s employees, accessible via LinkedIn, which included a module encouraging people to "try to be less white." The company has since removed links to that content, but not before doctored images of the phrase emblazoned on Coke cans were widely shared online. 

As a result of the "try to be less white" training module, calls to boycott the company circulated on social media under hashtags like #boycottcoke and #boycottcocacola. 

But there’s no clear evidence that calls to boycott Coke in February triggered market pressure months later. 

Stephen Foerster, a professor of finance at the University of Western Ontario, explained that it’s generally difficult to prove causation related to stock price movements. 

"Stock prices are driven by all kinds of information, some which may impact the overall market, like economic news, and some that is specific to a particular firm," Foerster said. 

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Foerster suggested that it’s possible that the "try to be less white" training module may have had a short-term impact on Coke’s stock price relative to the overall market around the time the news circulated in February, but not a long-term impact.

Still, some news outlets, from Fortune Magazine to the Washington Post,  have reported that the real cause of the $4 billion market value drop was a viral clip of soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo reaching for water instead of Coke at a press conference for the European Football Championship.

In the June 14 clip, the Portuguese soccer star moves two bottles of Coke to the side and says the Portuguese word for water while raising a bottle to the press. 

While the S&P 500 rose 0.4% that day, Coca-Cola's shares dropped 1.6%, from $56.17 at the beginning of the conference to $55.22 by the end of the conference, resulting in an overall loss of $4 billion. 

Despite the apparent simultaneity between Coca-Cola’s tumble and Ronaldo’s press conference, Coca-Cola’s Chief Financial Officer John Murphy told Reuters in July that the beverage company has not seen any direct sales impact following Ronaldo’s snub. 

Our ruling 

"Coca-Cola has lost $4 bil in market value as people are boycotting Coke for their ‘try to be less White’ statement," the Facebook post reads. 

While Coca-Cola stoked controversy in February for a diversity and equity employee training module which included the phrase, "try to be less white," there’s no evidence that the statement led to product boycotts that affected the company’s market value in mid-June. 

We rate this claim False. 

 

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