A sushi restaurant in Russia took down an ad featuring a Black man and issued an apology after the images drew the ire of a far-right hate group. According to CBS News, the founder of Yobidoyobi, Konstantin Zimen, also received death threats over the images.
The popular restaurant chain has over 60 branches in the European nation. The first of the two ads the restaurant took down was posted on August 14. The photo features a Black male model posing with three Slavic-looking women. The Black man is holding a tray of sushi while seated.
The second photo, which was posted two weeks later, features the same Black model holding what appears to be sushi in both hands. The ads, however, did not go down well with a section of people, and they reportedly made their feelings known by passing hateful comments on the restaurant’s social media accounts.
Zimen said the majority of the negative comments and threats came from a Russian far-right hate group known as “Male State.” And the negative feedback was instigated by its founder Vladislav Pozdnyakov after he circulated the ads on social media. The hate group, which claims to be an advocate for “traditional values”, is notoriously known for intimidating LGBTQ+ members as well as feminist activists among others, CBS News reported. They have also been cited for threatening Russian women with biracial kids.
“On Pozdnyakov’s telegram channel, his followers call for ‘real’ actions, they publish links to the social media accounts of the girls who were also featured in the ad, and write negative reviews on all sites, online maps, AppStore, and Google Play,” Zimen reportedly blogged about the group’s actions in response to the ad.
The founder of the restaurant delivery chain also said he received several death threats and intimidating calls after his personal phone number was circulated online. Besides the hateful comments and threats, Zimen also said Pozdnyakov was trying to cripple the business by encouraging his followers to intentionally order food from the establishment and decline to pay when delivered.
“Yobidoyobi is known for its provocative marketing, but this time we did not pursue these goals — we just made a very ordinary promo for social networks. Many brands use images of different models, which may differ in skin color, gender, and so on,” Zimen reportedly told a Russian news outlet. “There was no provocation in this — it is just the voice of the times. I am sorry that someone thinks that a photo of a Black man (especially next to supposedly “Slavic” girls) on the Internet is unacceptable.”
In an Instagram post to announce the ads were deleted, the restaurant apologized “for offending the public” with the photos. But the apology and deletion of the photos were criticized by some people on the restaurant’s Instagram page.
“Are you yourself not ashamed of this shameful apology, written as if the Taliban with machine guns was standing over you?” a user questioned.
This is not the first time a Russian company has succumbed to such pressure. A Russian grocery chain by the name VkusVill recently had to similarly take down an ad that featured an LGBTQ family. The family in question also fled Russia because of death threats they allegedly received after the ad was made public.