UPDATE: As of Sunday, Disney, ViacomCBS, Warner Bros., A24, Lionsgate, BET, FX Networks, Fox Entertainment and AMC have also issued statements denouncing racism and supporting the Black community, along with the Academy of Motion Pictures.
In an unusual move, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Starz and other major Hollywood players used their corporate social media accounts to take a stand on Saturday and support the Black Lives Matter movement amid the ongoing nationwide protests decrying the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. A day later, much of the rest of the town also took to Twitter and Instagram to post similar statements.
Netflix tweeted on Saturday afternoon: “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.”
The move drew accolades on the platform, including from director Ava DuVernay and “Orange Is the New Black” and “Mrs. America” star Uzo Aduba.
And Alphabet-owned YouTube on Friday posted that “We stand in solidarity against racism and violence. When members of our community hurt, we all hurt. We’re pledging $1M in support of efforts to address social injustice.”
A number of other entertainment brands have followed suit on Saturday night, as protests gained momentum throughout the nation. HBO, HBO Max, TBS, TNT all changed their Twitter handles to #BlackLivesMatter and posted statements of support.
Amazon Studios posted on Twitter and Instagram that “Together we stand with the Black community — colleagues, artists, writers, storytellers, producers, our viewers — and all allies in the fight against racism and injustice.” Quibi changed its Twitter bio to read, “We stand together against injustice. #BlackLivesMatter.”
Starz also lent its corporate voice to the cause. “We cannot stand silent while our Black communities under the weight of violence, discrimination and injustice,” wrote Starz on Twitter and Instagram. “Color of Change and the NAACP are among the organizations taking the lead in the fight for racial justice in America. We support them in their mission and you can too.”
Notably, Disney-owned Hulu tweeted and posted on Instagram on Saturday the message that “We support Black lives. Today, and every day. You are seen. You are heard. And we are with you.” No other Disney corporate brands did the same until Sunday morning; Disney executive chairman Bob Iger shared a link to a statement from CEO Bob Chapek, which said, in part, that “We intend to focus our efforts and resources to compassionately and constructively talk about these matters openly and honestly as we seek solutions.”
Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment tweeted that they “stand against racism” and with their fellow black employees and storytellers on Sunday evening. FX Networks tweeted Sunday morning that it “stands with our many African American colleagues, artists and friends, and we support all who stand for a just legal system—one that does not tolerate senseless violence against anyone.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also expressed its support, saying “The Academy adds its voice to the call for justice.”
In a statement obtained by Variety on Sunday, entertainment company Lionsgate said, “Lionsgate stands with all people of color in the fight against racial injustice and inequality. The recent killing of George Floyd is the latest in a series of deplorable events that highlight the need for real change in how we address our diversity as a society. Our company has a proud 20-year history of serving our audiences with films and television programming that celebrate this diversity and speak to a wide range of cultural experiences. On behalf of our entire organization and all of our businesses, we are committed to a society that is diverse, inclusive, tolerant and respectful.”
ViacomCBS’ Pop TV tweeted Sunday that “We stand with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and call for the end of systemic racism. These racist and brutal attacks must end.”
Disney-owned FX Networks tweeted Sunday morning that it “stands with our many African American colleagues, artists and friends, and we support all who stand for a just legal system—one that does not tolerate senseless violence against anyone.
Social media platforms have also taken time over the weekend to echo that support for the movement, with Twitter changing its bio to simply read “#BlackLivesMatter” and TikTok issuing the following statement:
“At TikTok we deeply value the diverse voices among our users, creators, artists, partners, and employees. We stand with the Black community and are proud to provide a platform where #blacklivesmatter and #georgefloyd generate powerful and important content with over 1 billion views. We are committed to fostering a space where everyone is seen and heard.”
Twitch similarly posted a statement:
“Black people have been suffering under the oppressive weight of racism in America for far too long. We cannot delight in the creative contributions of the Black community on Twitch and remain silent while they are in pain. We’re asking you to come together to and stand up for Black lives whether it’s through your time, treasure, or talent. Don’t let today’s injustice stop us from creating a better tomorrow for our community.”
While these major entertainment brands have been focusing their social media efforts on publicly supporting the Black community, several of their executives have taken the time to write memos to their employees, expressing similar support.
CEO of ViacomCBS-owned Paramount Jim Gianopulos sent an internal memo to employees, expressing that “Too many members of the Black community have had their breath stolen from them through racial injustice.” New WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar asked staffers to read four works to better inform their understanding and “increase our collective empathy for the Black community.”
ViacomCBS’ entertainment and youth brands head Chris McCarthy offered similar remarks to his staff, and said the division will use its platforms to call for equality. Its brands and platforms will also go dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Monday “to mark the time in which George Floyd was brutally killed.”
The full internal memo from Gianopulos to Paramount employees can be read below:
TO: Paramount Employees
FROM: Jim Gianopulos
DATE: May 30th, 2020
Across our nation, we are witnessing the real-time expression of years and years of collective pain. The addition of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor to an already unbearable tally of those who have been killed because of the color of their skin has brought to a boiling point the outrage over the systemic racial injustice in this country.
As children, we learn the pledge of allegiance, with the concluding promise that ours is a country built on “liberty and justice for all.” What we have seen in these past several weeks, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, centuries, is example after example of the gap between this promise and the reality in which many live. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That these words bear repeating today is a painful reminder of how far we have to go as a society in ensuring justice for all. Too many members of the Black community have had their breath stolen from them through racial injustice.
As a nation, our heartbreak and outrage are not enough. The fabric of our society, the founding promise that all men are created equal, is broken, and it is the responsibility of all of us to raise our voices and be part of the solution. At the same time, we have an opportunity for internal reflection as we ask ourselves hard questions about the beliefs that are entrenched in our culture, and explore how we can become better citizens and stewards for one another. We must be better, and we will be better, with love and humanity leading the way.
I know that this comes at a time when tensions are already high and anxiety is ubiquitous as we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic. In the midst of this incredibly difficult time, know that we are here for you and we remain a community and company that is stronger together and committed to racial and social justice.
Please take care of yourselves and your families and we will strive together to overcome these troubled times.
With my heartfelt wishes to you all,
Here is Kilar’s memo in full:
From: Jason Kilar
Subject: We need to listen to the Black community.
I am horrified by what has happened in our country recently as it relates to the treatment of the Black community. I suspect that most, if not all, of you are as well.
This email is an attempt to do two things.
First, I want to provide validation to the voices of our Black team members. Your voices matter, your messages matter. To me and to the world. I want to be very clear in saying that our responsibility to the Black community is that we truly listen, that we seek understanding, and that we do these things with as much empathy as possible. In no uncertain terms, we as a company are firmly in support of people that suffer injustice, including our own.
The second thing this email attempts to do, with a sense of urgency, is to increase our collective empathy for the Black community. In order to do so, I am going to lean into the foundation and very reason for being of this great company, which is story. Ours is a company that tells stories. And stories, told well, have the power to move people in lasting ways.
With the above as context, I am asking every WarnerMedia team member to consume the below four stories this weekend. Each of these stories has moved me and I hope that they will move each of you. Please take the time in a quiet place to let these stories sit with you. Read and watch them several times. Our journey as a human race is to ultimately attain compassion, wisdom, justice, and love. I believe the below stories can help move us closer to these ideals.
- Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is…A Lot. An article by Shenequa Golding.
- Killer Mike’s Speech in Atlanta (Killer Mike has some choice words for CNN which I disagree with, yet I believe in the balance of his message).
- America Is A Tale of Two Cities. A video essay by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
- Bobby Kennedy’s Speech the Night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination.
For our company and teams, there will be more coming from Christy Haubegger, who reports directly to me as our Chief Enterprise Inclusion Officer. Christy is leading the company’s efforts here in close coordination with me and the senior leadership team. More to come shortly.
My commitment to each of you is that I am going to do everything I can to lead with empathy and action in this moment, as the Black community deserves nothing less. It is better stated that the Black community deserves so much more.
Below is the internal memo from ViacomCBS’ McCarthy:
The last few weeks have brought to the surface long standing racism, videos of unspeakable behavior and the harsh reality of inequality many in our community deal with on a regular and daily basis. In Minneapolis, the horrifying murder of George Floyd, in Georgia the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and in Kentucky, the deplorable shooting of Breonna Taylor, to name just a few recent examples.
This is on top of a pandemic which has emphasized the tragic inequalities that disproportionately impact communities of color, especially African American and Latinx communities, in addition to the unjust targeting of Asian Americans.
While I am not a person of color and can never fully understand this experience, I am offended by the systemic racism and want to stand together with our communities of color in the hurt and pain. We must all do our part – discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.
Therefore, as President of our Group, I commit that we will do the following:
1. Use our platforms to shine a light on the realities of racial injustice and call for equality.
This morning, we made the following statements across our brands and platforms.
Black Lives Matter
We stand with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and call for the end of systemic racism. These racist and brutal attacks must end. We call for justice.
2. Amplify the voices of the communities we serve and provide a call to action for change.
Tomorrow, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we will go dark across our brands and platforms to mark the time in which George Floyd was brutally killed as a tribute to Mr. Floyd and other victims of racism. We will provide a call to action encouraging our audiences to get involved and help be part of the solution with our partner Color of Change.
3. Foster a culture that deeply values and respects diversity and inclusion.
On Tuesday, we are joining Black Out Tuesday, to focus our attention away from work and towards our community. We will not hold any meetings nor conduct any business – rather we will stand in solidarity with our African American colleagues and loved ones across the country.
This is just the beginning and I acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. Over the next few weeks, you will be invited to join us for discussions on ways we can use our brands and platforms to inspire and enact change.