ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said on Tuesday that a story point about football players kneeling during the national anthem was not the reason that an episode of executive producer Kenya Barris’ comedy series “Black-ish” was shelved this season.
“As you know, we have long been supportive of Kenya and team tackling challenging and controversial issues in the show,” Dungey said on a conference call with reporters announcing ABC’s 2018-19 schedule. “We have always traditionally been able to come to a place creatively where we felt good about the story he was telling, even if we felt like it was pushing some hot buttons and he felt he was sharing the story the way it should be shared. I think with this particular episode, there were a number of elements to the episode that we had a hard time coming to terms on. Much has been made of the sort of kneeling part of it, which was not even really the issue.”
Dungey added, “At the end of the day, this was a mutual decision made between Kenya and the network to not push the episode out, and I think we all feel like that was the best decision overall.”
ABC in February pulled a new episode of “Black-ish” that dealt with several social and political topics, including protests against racial injustice during football games. The following month, Variety learned that ABC had shelved the episode indefinitely, with no plans to air it or make it available to viewers on other platforms.
In the wake of the controversy, Barris is said to have held talks with Netflix about exiting his overall deal with ABC Studios for a new contract at the streaming service. Dungey on Tuesday downplayed the possibility of Barris leaving his ABC deal, which does not expire for another two years.
“Conversations with Kenya have been incredibly collaborative, and he and I have been in conversations recently about some potential new business,” Dungey said. “We love working with Kenya and are happy to continue doing so.” Regarding Barris’ overall deal, Dungey said, “He is under contract currently with ABC Studios.”