A Russian sushi delivery chain has publicly apologized for an advertisement that featured a Black man as a model, CBS News reported.
Yobidoyobi, which has stores in 65 Russian cities, posted an ad on social media on Aug. 14 that showed a photo of a Black male model surrounded by three young women of Slavic descent. In another campaign two weeks later, the company posted a picture of the same man eating sushi which sparked the chain’s social media accounts to become the target of racist comments.
According to the restaurant’s owner, he received death threats from a nationalist hate group and was forced to take down the advertisement after people were offended by the use of a Black model. The company took to Instagram to share its apology.
“On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos. We have removed all the content that caused this commotion,” the post read.
Konstantin Zimen, the founder of Yobidoyobi, said the attacks came from a group called “Male State.” He also added that the threats came after the movement’s leader, Vladislav Pozdnyakov, shared it online.
Male State and Pozdnyakov are described as groups that seek to promote “traditional values” in Russia and have been accused of threatening Russian women with biracial children, feminist activists and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“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,” he wrote on a blog post.
In an interview with Inc., a Russian outlet, Zimen spoke about the racism that the ad attracted.
“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,” Zimen said.
“Many brands use images of different models, which may differ in skin color, gender, and so on,” “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,” he continued.
The incident with Yobidoyobi comes weeks after a Russian grocery chain, VkusVill, deleted an ad campaign featuring an LGBTQ+ family, creating a massive controversy.
At the moment, the same-sex family who appeared in the promo have left Russia because of death threats.