BRISBANE “coffee king” Phillip Di Bella, who made news in June over a series of homophobic slurs on social media, has entered into a sponsorship deal with the upcoming Brisbane Pride Festival in an effort to illustrate his support for the LGBTI community.
Di Bella’s Queensland Business of the Year Award from Telstra was subsequently taken off him, with chief executive David Thodey saying that the views did not match Telstra’s core values of inclusion.
“I believe it’s important to get more involved in the community and demonstrate that not only is Di Bella Coffee an inclusive organisation, but so am I,” Di Bella told the Star Observer.
“It is very important to be inclusive of all society. Coffee doesn’t discriminate and neither do my company or I.”
Criticism of his remarks is something that Di Bella has taken to heart and reminded him of the role of being a business leader in the public eye.
“Corporate citizenship is something I believe is extremely important. I personally believe in supporting a range of organisations, events and community groups,” he said.
“I constantly reflect and of course am very apologetic to all the people that where offended by my comments. As I said at the time my comments where by no means motivated or targeted at the LGBTI community.
“It was a swearing outburst that should never have happened and I have learnt a lesson for sure.”
The whole saga has provided Di Bella with an insight to the power of language and a lesson on social media conduct.
“I completely understand how some in the LGBTI community could have found my comments offensive and again I sincerely apologise to them. Think before you post is something I should have adopted previous but guarantee I have now,” he said.
“At the time I didn’t even consider how my comments could have been taken the wrong way but I certainly do now and apologise profusely.”
The chance to sponsor September’s Brisbane Pride Festival was an opportunity that Di Bella jumped at when he was approached by its managing committee.
“I am very happy to continue our support and engagement with the LGBTI community. Through weakness comes opportunity and I have thankfully been given this opportunity to engage and support the LGBTI community and therefore would love to continue,” he said.
Brisbane Pride vice-president Shaz Gerchow has welcomed Di Bella’s involvement with the organisation.
“Brisbane Pride welcome Di Bella’s support for this year’s Pride Festival and hope it is the first of many partnerships with the corporate community of Brisbane,” Gerchow told the Star Observer.
“After recent controversy, Di Bella were seeking to make amends with the LGBTIQ community and Brisbane Pride are supportive of their attempts to do so.”
Di Bella hopes the chance to contribute to Brisbane’s premier LGBTI cultural festival will allow him the opportunity to offer more than words in his effort to make amends.
“I am not always right but will always operate with accountability and integrity,” he said.
“I thank (Brisbane Pride) to allow me the opportunity to sponsor this event and look forward to assisting and supporting in future events and initiatives. It is a pleasure to be able to sponsor the Pride Festival.”