NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous publicly expressed opposition for the first time to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks in an interview Saturday on Up w/ Chris Hayes.
The ban on sales of sugary drinks over 16 ounce portions, the first of its kind and a signature of Bloomberg’s aggressive public health agenda, was overturned this week by a state judge one day before it was set to take effect. Both the local chapter of the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation had expressed opposition to the ban and filed amicus briefs in the lawsuit brought against it by the American Beverage Association. Until now, the NAACP at the national level had remained silent.
“We would support the idea of a ban, but you have to do it well,” Jealous said. He cited a New York Times editorial against the ban, adding, “It was ill-conceived from the beginning, and ill-executed.”
Jealous said the NAACP supported initiatives to take sugary drinks out of schools and encourage physical education for New York City school children. He cited the fact that the bill exempts certain products and vendors, such as the “Big Gulps” sold at 7-Eleven stores, as one of the NAACP’s objections to the bill.
“We’ve been really clear, we have national policy that supports the full range of tactics to combat childhood obesity. The New York state conference of the NAACP is very clear, they would support a comprehensive ban,” Jealous said. “This is the troubling part: this ‘ban’ wouldn’t have been a ban at all, in that it would have stopped it from the mom and pop shops, it wouldn’t have stopped it at 7-Eleven.”
Jealous added: “How are you banning soda if you’re not banning ‘Big Gulps?’”
Bloomberg has called the local chapter of the NAACP’s opposition to the ban an “outright disgrace” and accused the Hispanic Federation of having “sold its soul.” Jealous responded to Bloomberg’s aggressive posture by saying that the NAACP would havee been open to working with Bloomberg to design a ban the organization could have supported, if only Bloomberg had sought the NAACP’s input from the beginning.
“Come talk to us, let’s figure out how to do this together,” Jealous said, “rather than pitting us against each other.”