Q&A: Al Sharpton Talks Oscar Boycott, Says African Americans Need to Send Message to Hollywood

Al Sharpton Racial Bias NAACP Lawsuit
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Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for viewers to “tune out” this year’s Oscar broadcast.

The MSNBC host and former Democratic presidential candidate is incensed that for the second year in a row, members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences failed to nominate any actors or directors of color despite acclaimed work from the likes of Will Smith (“Concussion”), Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”),  and Ryan Coogler (“Creed”). Lower ratings could depress advertising revenue, Sharpton reasons, noting that a similar tactic caused CBS Radio to end Don Imus’s contract in 2007 after the broadcaster called the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”

Sharpton told Variety that the National Action Network (NAN), the civil rights group he founded and leads, will convene a series of meetings and conference calls with African-American leaders and advocacy groups  to create a campaign to encourage people not to watch the awards show. His comments come after filmmaker Spike Lee said he would not attend the ceremony and actress Jada Pinkett Smith floated the idea of a boycott.

Variety spoke to Sharpton about his outrage over the snubs and how he plans to pressure the Academy to become more diverse.

Why are you calling for a “tune out”?

We’ve talked about the climate of exclusion for people of color in Hollywood both in terms of being selected for possible awards and in terms of having power to make deals and it seems as though Hollywood listens a day or two and moves on. Now it’s time to make sure we can’t be ignored. A “tune out” can do that.

One of the things that NAN has done, whether it was with Imus or other issues, is the way we have used he cash register. If major advertisers know that people are tuning out and the ratings are down, that will impact the bottom line of the value of the Academy and the Academy has to, at some point, determine whether or not it is in their interest to continue excluding people and excluding them at what price. Now we have to escalate that price. When we were fighting people before, we went right to the advertisers and people who ignored us started saying, ‘lets sit down and talk,’ because their bottom line was effected. You have to remember advertisers have to do business, have to go before congress and the senate for regulations, they have to deal in municipalities to expand their businesses. Advertisers when they’re approached by civil rights groups, they may agree or disagree, but they don’t want to get into it. They think, why am I going to pay money? The viewership will be lower. And I’m going to have people on me for underwriting something that now is developing into a pattern of exclusion.

Are you reaching out to other groups?

Oh yeah. We’re having a series of conference calls in the next few days with other national civil rights groups as well as some of the ministerial groups and what I call “influencers,” people who have national syndicated radio shows like I do and others. They’re the ones that talk to the demographic that watch the Oscars.

This is a contest voted on by a fairly small group of people that’s a subjective assessment of art. Why do you feel the selection process has failed and why is it important that the Oscars be more inclusive?

It’s failed because it’s a small body with an even smaller percentage of people of color. When you have an industry where 40% of the theater-goers are people of color, but the representation people of color in the Academy is much smaller, you have a situation that is offensive and insulting. Secondly, the reason why it’s so important to us is because the Oscars have always been considered the ultimate prize in American cinema and culture. We can not afford in an era that we can have a black in the White House, a black attorney general, but a black for two years or a brown for two years can’t get an Oscar nomination? There’s something totally contradictory about that.

Do you think that this kind of exclusion is confined to the Oscars or is it simply reflective of a larger problem throughout the entertainment industry?

It’s much broader. It’s industry-wide, but I think that the most dramatic and the most optical in terms of relevance is the Oscars. It’s also the one to more easily organize people around. People don’t have to come out to a march. People don’t have to do anything. People can just turn the dial. Since they have tuned us out in Hollywood, we can tune them out at home.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement yesterday saying she was “heartbroken” by the lack of diversity and calling for a review of the membership. What did you think of her response and have you reached out to her?

We have not reached out to her. She should be heartbroken, but my battle is not with her. But again how many years are we going to take heartbreaking before we start fingering our remotes to another channel? That’s all. In fact what we are doing will help her in terms of the diversity issue. People tend to move more quickly when they know it’s going to cost them something. In many ways, if her statement is sincere, this will help her make people understand that something needs to be done.

The Academy has tapped an African-American host for the broadcast, Chris Rock. Do you think he should boycott the show?

I’m not encouraging artists either way, because I understand they have to survive in that industry. But I think that artists, as well as companies, need to understand they’re playing to a public. The public operates independently. The artists have to survive, but the public has to be respected. We can influence enough of the public to effect the bottom line.

Do you think the exclusion of black performers is a case of people being racist? Are they being ignorant? What do you think the reason is?

It could be all of the above or part of the above. It really doesn’t matter. If you’re excluded, you want to have inclusion. Or you can have exclusion continue, but I’m not paying for it. It’s that simple. They can do whatever they want, but not on my TV.

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  1. Liam says:

    Al Sharpton is the biggest Racist than any White individusal. He belongs in jail.

  2. l woods says:

    Wow! P.O.S.,RACIST al sharpton!theylack community is now crying because they r not being nominated talent,award that is given because of your talent ,not skin color! Uguys have no shame!!!

  3. Henry says:

    Al Sharpton is one of the greatest dividers of this country since the 1980’s. The biggest instigator and makes money off it too. If something is not racist, you can bet Al Sharpton will be there to turn it into a racial issue and make a buck from it.

  4. Rod says:

    So should white people stop watching the NBA? I thought this was about talent not color of skin?

  5. cindy says:

    Maybe black actors or actresses didn’t do well in movies this year just like many white one’s that didn’t get nominated. Why is everything turned in to racist issues. So so sick of Al Sharpton’s mouth he is the biggest instigator. I could care less about his opions, he calls himself a reverand. The only thing he is a reverand of his stirring up what he wants to make into racist issues. HE IS A JOKE!! Who cares if he watches the Oscars. People of color have several award shows just for them that whites are not allowed to be a part of. GROW UP AL SHARPTON. We don’t need or care what you think

  6. You won’t be there. Message received. Now I gotta go out to buy popcorn to enjoy the show with.

  7. Al Sharpton needs to send money to the IRS.

  8. doreen says:

    Al Sharpton is a racist
    The OSCARS have nothing to do wirh race
    But this is what racist Al Sharpton wants you to believe,

  9. There goes ol’ Peanut Head again; barking about something he knows nothing about. I guess he’s not successful in extorting the Academy so he’s back to protesting.

  10. Rick Rowley says:

    This idiot is useless. A real man of God doesn’t go around causing hate and riots. He is about as much a reverend as I am.

  11. Tawana Sharpton is also boycotting paying taxes.

  12. topper says:

    Please explain to me why this Tax Cheats black ass is not in jail???????????

  13. Make Believe says:

    Al $harpton should be in jail for tax fraud…. Nothing he says is relevant…. So tune out Al… NOBODY CARES about your racist rants … you are a disgrace to the race1

  14. Jennie says:

    And wait for it 3..2..1, as the white racists on this board say the same argument over and over again…. We don’t care what you say change is going to happen whether you like it or not. Anyway I’ll be watching the WALKING DEAD and TALKING DEAD instead, at least their cast is the epitome of what diversity means and I won’t be bored to death.

  15. Leslie Brown says:

    maybe the movies by black actors/producers/directors did not make the grade, how many white directors/producers/directors have not received an Oscar for their movies even though they were good or even great. Every year we has Oscar snubs and because a black did not receive an Oscar in two years running they should boycott the Oscars. Maybe next year a black actor/director/producer will win an Oscar then everyone can say that it was not because of the work it was because he was black and the Oscars were tired of the blacks crying in their crying towels.

  16. icabod crain says:

    pay your taxes and stop causing riots.

  17. mikw whure says:

    Be very careful as Hollywood does not really need you.

  18. No one cares what you think Sharpton

  19. Lisa says:

    Why are you not in prison for failure to pay your taxes? How about addressing your own community on taking responsibility on raising law abiding children and encouraging them to do well in school instead of marching and supporting criminals?

  20. Jon Simon says:

    Leave it to Al to once again get his name in the press. Doesn’t he owe the IRS millions?

    All this hype will cause the Oscars to be one of the most watched shows ever.

    African Americans are constantly pointing the finger of blame anywhere they can. Now they call for a boycott? If it wasn’t so laughable it would be sickening.

    Slavery is a dark past of any country. People were whipped, starved and hung.

    What atrocities has IRS Al or Jada Smith suffered? Because of the dark history of slavery and what each generation has went through, people like Al and Jada have never had it so good! They lead their lives with money, with nice clothing and homes. They lead their life in the limelight rather than suffering in a slave shack. Yet they are unsatisfied that they don’t get accolades they THINK they deserve?

    I can’t recall seeing Jada in any movie that I have seen. She wasn’t memorable enough to remember. I see Al Sharpton in the news. I see him constantly trying to shove his face on camera any chance he gets. I read where people say he is all about “the money”. He’s no fool. Why work in a factory or a fast food joint when you can make a living like he does?

    Calling for a boycott is going to backfire. Calling for a boycott for vanity reasons is a slap in the face to every single actor or actress who has tried to work their way to the top. Calling on a boycott only makes you look like a fool.

    I encourage everyone to watch the Oscars show and see clips of movies along with some fine talent accepting awards for which they most certainly deserved.

  21. Jimmy Green says:

    KMA you deadbeat. Start paying all the taxes you owe and shut up.

  22. Seems like talent and the performance given should be the determining factors. promotion and marketing play a considerable role in the selection process as well. Is there currently a call for a quota system to be implemented and will that be voted upon by Academy members or decided in a Federal court?

  23. Rich says:

    If there is something he can exploit for his own good($).. Sharpton will always be there!

  24. Me says:

    Here’s the message from Hollywood

    My middle finger!

  25. 85wzen says:

    A weak discusion…

  26. Madea says:

    I don’t usually watch Oscars … but this time, to honor good ole Al, I will

  27. Wrex717 says:

    Had there been a handful of Asians and Hispanic nominees but no Blacks, I bet Spike, Al, Jada, etc would still complain. The only minority they see are themselves.

  28. 71% raise! says:

    This is merely a distraction and NOT credible.
    There are more important issues plaguing this community.
    Like housing, jobs, and is Cosby really guilty?
    Are there other VIP predators being shielded, protected?
    Why does he always engage in weight shaming and using
    stereotypical slurs ” watermelon, chitlins, sweet tea against
    Blacks who foolishly give their hard earned coins as donations.
    Remember when his waist line was over 300lbs?
    How can a reverend be so insensitive, it’s bizarre!

  29. Captain Raq says:

    Rev Al voted for Tawana Brawley as ‘Best Actress’ this year. Maybe she deserves a lifetime achievement award?

  30. Boycotting doesn’t do jack! Black people need to begging White folks for acceptance. We don’t need a pat on the head from these people. If they don’t want us at their award shows then we should move on…

  31. J. Bishop says:

    Will Smith may have a run next year his movie came out late in ’15 and it is good. My favorite actors are Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. I wish Sharpton would keep his mouth shut and pay his taxes. I do however respect Spike Lee’s wishes and comments.

    • steven raye says:

      spike lee is racist sheet…he thinks just like all blacks that he is special. yeah, small yellow school bus special.

  32. stan harris says:

    Maybe he should pay his taxes, then people might listen to this racist…

    • Audrey says:

      Yes, I agree. They are just being poor sports about the Oscars. It is not our fault they didn’t produce anything worthy!!!

      • Chris says:

        you sound stupid….I guess a bunch of white men with problems is worthy….lolololololololololololol!!!!!!!!

  33. hew says:

    Way to go al. Embarrass yourself further. Look into the republican party and you will see true diversity. It actually is a requirement to win an award for an actor to have talent, for a film to be watchable. Straight out of Compton had none of that.

  34. George says:

    Maybe Rev Al could give Spike and Jada participation trophies

  35. Eric McNair says:

    Al Sharpton continues to fan the flames of racism!

  36. William H Bradley says:

    I hope Al and others will be voting republican this year since the Dem’s lack any diversity. They really should make a statement!

  37. Ricardo says:

    The Director of the Revenant got best director he speaks Spanish he is of course Hispanic originating in Europe Western Europe the same people basically as the French, English, and Italians so while the director was a European man he was from a hispanic culture so there is some diversity.

  38. 99.999999 says:

    The oscars are long and boring and always been a sham. I stopped watching decades ago.

  39. Robert McFly says:

    Has everyone forgotten that 2 years ago the best director, actor, actress and best picture was 12 Years A Slave? Oscar noms are a crap shoot. A lot of people get snubbed. The premise of this controversy is that the majority of white academy members are biased. That’s BS.

  40. tommariner says:

    I agree with Rev. Al. The Oscars have become too much of a politically correct show focusing on races and genders and ethnicities and nothing on the best work in filming during the year.

    The activist is lobbying for those who pay them, the actors protesting are shouting because it will get their investments more return, and some dimwit actors actually think they are doing something by not attending.

    Yeah, shut it down — or make it the “quota” show where whichever divided group yells the loudest gets the most votes. Makes sense since I found out what “NWA” meant on the caps of the glaring creeps in the images of “Compton”. Hint, it ain’t “No White Actors”.

  41. Lisa says:

    Who’s the happy dude in the background?

  42. Free says:

    As a black film lover who actually FOLLOWS awards season all year long, not just at the end, this is really aggravating. The industry definitely needs to adapt, but the Oscars can only do so much. It’s a problem within the film industry itself. Always has been.

    • Chris says:

      Thank you Free! The first great comment on this board.

    • Lisa says:

      Unfortunately, this racism goes deeper than we think. I think it’ll take another 50 years or so for the industry to finally make real progress. The problem is our society is such a deep engrained patriarchal one that it will take generations of both men and women to undo it.

  43. Blahh says:

    What a bunch odiotic retards

  44. Donna says:

    It’s a contest, that’s all . And in competition many are left behind of all talents, races., genders, demographics and more.
    Congratulate the winners and move on.

    • Chris says:

      Im sorry Donna, it just really irritating….because they act like there are no other people except WHITE PEOPLE…..can we get some asian winners, Latino Winners, black winner. you would think the only people that live in the flippin country are white people and that white people are the only ones that make movies. GEZZZZZZZZ…..

    • Lisa says:

      Yeah, but if the winners are cheating by tripping the other competitors, that’s a different story

  45. cadavra says:

    Funny how everyone knocks the Oscars as just a bunch of meaningless, self-congratulatory BS until someone gets left out, and then it’s the most important thing ever!! Chill, people, it’s just an awards show. Can anyone even remember who won Best Actor three years ago without looking it up?

  46. Andrew Kole says:

    Once again Rev. Al looks to grab some airtime. In a year that fell very short in respect to good movies, I agree the African-American film community got short changed with Straight Outta Compton not making the Best Picture list, but the actors performances he mentions didn’t jump off the page past those who got nominated. Would anyone really want a nomination just for being black? I know Will Smith a little bit and know he wouldn’t want that. There aren’t any “old white Jews” nominated either, but nobody is suggesting a boycott. In respect to the business of film, specifically the money, there are a lot of resources in the sports world (players making millions) that could get into the film business. The African-American community is not doing themselves a service with Rev. Al as a leader. He’s done some good in the past – but has morphed into an headline hunter. The solution is to make a great film and dominate the market – the accolades will come.

  47. JBJ says:

    Please STOP negative talk about RACE and RELIGION!

  48. Robbie says:

    Two words, Al: Tawana Brawley.

    • Freddy says:

      I remember Robbie! Al’s a Race Hustler. Why Variety is giving him FaceTime is beyond me.

      • Frank says:

        Variety gives every black whiner and complainer face time because Variety is an affirmative-action left wing rag. It is the equivalent of the National Enquirer, but the articles are just not as well written.

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