Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

‘We meant no disrespect’: Pepsi issues personal apology to Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice


What a difference a day can make. When Pepsi launched its protest-themed advertising campaign starring Kendall Jenner on Tuesday morning, the soft drinks giant presumably knew that they would – to paraphrase one of the placards in said advert – be starting a “conversation”. Somewhat incredibly, however, the company seems not to have predicted the international backlash that their ad would unleash.

The short film has been widely condemned as a “tone-deaf”, “offensive” attempt to cash in on the international protest movement – particularly the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Singled out for particular scorn was a scene in which Jenner breaks away from a protesting crowd to offer a Pepsi to a police officer, echoing the famous moment when BLM protester Iesha Evans serenely faced down riot police in Baton Rouge last summer.

Many activists had something to say about Pepsi’s ad, but one of the most powerful responses came from Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter. Bernice King, a minister and CEO of The King Centre, posted a photo of her late father being manhandled by police at a civil rights protest. (In what may have been a coincidence, the Pepsi ad was released exactly 49 years to the day since King’s assassination.)

In response, Pepsi offered a personal apology to King.

Read more: Pepsi responds to backlash over controversial Kendall Jenner campaign

“We at Pepsi believe in the legacy of Dr King & meant absolutely no disrespect to him & others who fight for justice,” the corporation wrote on Twitter.

They added that they had been “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologise.”

In an essay for the Huffington Post, King wrote that she saw Pepsi’s ad as “[contributing] to the notion that there is a fairy-tale, light way to ease conflicts that have existed in this nation for hundreds of years.”

Read more: “Why it’s time to abandon political correctness and talk openly about race”

Before his murder in 1968, King’s father popularised the notion of the “Beloved Community” – a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow beings. King said that this ideal could not be realised unless people started to think about the issues raised by Pepsi’s campaign.


Bernice King (third from left) aged five, walking in her father's funeral procession in 1968.

“Some may say ‘It’s just a commercial’. I say that the ad and the responses to it reflect deep issues around race, privilege and how we build the Beloved Community post slavery and Jim Crow. We cannot ignore that we are currently grappling with gross injustice and inhumanity.”

Commending Pepsi for pulling the ad, King called on the world to “channel our energy into positive discourse and actions to address the emotions the ad evoked and the issues that were central in the ad”. She also suggested that Pepsi and other major corporations start thinking carefully about “social symbolism, race and responsibility, and presentations of privilege” in their advertising campaigns.

“The moment is ripe for personal, organisational and community transformation,” she wrote. “Let’s not miss this moment. Together, we can.”

Images: Rex Features



Watch black teenagers pay tribute to Maya Angelou on her birthday

Harlem ballet 2.PNG

Watch this moving video about representation in the arts


Teacher supports bullied schoolgirl by styling her hair the same way


The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Selena Gomez’s empowering message to Blake Lively making the rounds

by Nicola Colyer
18 Oct 2017

Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey shares shocking sexual harassment story

“I got in my car and cried”

by Susan Devaney
18 Oct 2017

Jennifer Lawrence was forced into a naked line-up by a producer

In the name of weight-loss “inspiration”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Abigail Breslin’s photo reveals how domestic abuse can stay with you

The actor has opened up about the realities of living with PTSD

17 Oct 2017

“Why Liar is proof that TV's depiction of rape is damaging to women”

The proliferation of rape in TV and film is a real problem for the representation of women

by Harriet Hall
17 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson reveals why red is the ultimate foodie colour

As she tracks her gastronomic love affair with all things crimson

by Stylist
17 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon says she was sexually assaulted at 16 by a director

“Producers made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Courtney Love tried to warn us about Harvey Weinstein in 2005

This video shows her speaking out against Weinstein over a decade ago

by Susan Devaney
17 Oct 2017

Hillary Clinton praises NHS after receiving medical treatment in UK

Clinton spoke about the UK’s health service during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show

by Moya Crockett
17 Oct 2017

Maisie Williams’ response to Sophie Turner’s engagement is perfect

There’s a reason these two have been dubbed #BFFgoals, you know…

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017