TELSTRA have rescinded their award given to Brisbane “coffee king” Phillip Di Bella, following a foul-mouthed tirade on social media last week that featured a slew of homophobic language.
Last week Di Bella faced a public backlash following comments posted to his social media accounts during the second State of Origin match on June 18.
“F*** off you c***sucker commentators!!! Stand up and give yourself a head job and the refs!!!” Di Bella wrote in one of the expletive-ridden posts during the match.
In the fallout of those social media posts, Di Bella personally contacted the Star Observer to apologise profusely for his comments.
“I want to sincerely offer my heartfelt apology to the LGBTI community for my poorly thought-out remarks and for any offence that may have been taken,” Di Bella said last week.
However, Telstra chief executive David Thodey took to Twitter earlier today to condemn Di Bella’s comments (see below) and say that his views did not reflect Telstra’s core principles of LGBTI inclusion and acceptance.
“We are extremely disappointed by Mr Di Bella’s comments. They do not reflect Telstra’s values nor those of the Telstra Business Awards and were completely inappropriate,” a Telstra spokesperson said.
“Regrettably, as a result we have spoken with Mr Di Bella and informed him of our decision to withdraw the award.
“While we note that Mr Di Bella has apologised for the comments, we believe in creating and promoting a culture of inclusion and respect and we expect our Award winners, as role models and leaders in the business community, to uphold these values.”
Telstra has consistently scored well in Pride in Diversity’s Australia Workplace Equality Index. In 2011, they were in the top 10.
In 2012, Di Bella also stated he supported the use of child labour on coffee plantations in South America.
A statement from Di Bella’s company was released shortly after Telstra’s announcement, expressing disappointment at the award being stripped from them.
“The comments made by Phillip Di Bella in no way represent the views or business practices of Di Bella Coffee and we do not support any comments that were made on his personal social media accounts last week,” a company spokesperson said in the statement.
“Phillip has issued a personal apology to the Di Bella Coffee Team.
“Di Bella Coffee would also like to apologise to our hardworking and dedicated staff. While Telstra has stripped us of our award, we would like to take this opportunity to tell you that your hard work and success over the years has not gone unnoticed.”
Di Bella himself has also released a statement in response, where he reiterated his apology.
“Comments made on my personal Facebook page are not reflective of Di Bella Coffee’s views, clients or business practices and I am disappointed that they have been represented in this way,” he stated.
“There is no excuse for my behaviour or my comments and I would like to deeply apologise to anyone who I have offended, it was never my intention to upset or insult anyone.”
Prior to Telstra’s rescinding of Di Bella’s award, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk both stated that they were standing by the man who holds a few key positions on several state and local government advisory boards. Di Bella has also made donations to the Liberal National Party.
Newman rejected calls to review Di Bella’s positions in Queensland Tourism and Events and on the Premier’s Advisory Board, and any personal associations he has with Di Bella.
“No review will be held. Mr Di Bella has apologised for his comments. He has obviously learnt a valuable lesson regarding posting on social media,” a spokesperson for the Premier said.
Di Bella also holds key positions on a council board, the CBD Economic Development Board and the council-funded Brisbane Marketing.
Quirk echoed the Premier’s sentiment and defended Di Bella as a “prominent Brisbane businessman” and highlighted his recent Telstra award.
“Mr Di Bella’s comments do not reflect council’s views and bear no alignment to his responsibilities for the CBD Economic Development Board,” a spokesperson for the Lord Mayor said.
“Local businessman Phil Di Bella, whose business was recently recognised as Telstra Queensland Business of the Year 2014, has been nominated to Chair the CBD Economic Development Board – which is a voluntary, unpaid position.”
Meanwhile, Brisbane Council opposition leader Cr Milton Dick urged the Lord Mayor to stand Di Bella down from his positions within council, saying that his views were “offensive and vulgar” and not appropriate for a man of his standing and someone charged with selling Brisbane to the world.
“This is a question of the Lord Mayor’s judgement and I question the suitability of Mr Di Bella for this role.” Cr Dick said.
The Star Observer has contacted the Premier and Lord Mayor for further comment regarding Telstra’s decision to rescind his recent business award.