Sony, WarnerMedia, Disney, ViacomCBS Weigh in on George Floyd Protests Urging ‘Collective Empathy,’ ‘Action’

Rosemary Rossi and Jeremy Fuster

Entertainment industry powerhouses ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia and Disney voiced their support for and unity with the black community following the wave of both peaceful and violent protests over the weekend in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Denouncing the “tragic inequalities that disproportionately impact communities of color, especially African American and Latinx communities,” ViacomCBS President Chris McCarthy told employees in an interoffice memo that he is committed to making changes within the organization.

For eight minutes and 46 seconds Monday, ViacomCBS “will be going dark cross (sic) 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,” McCarthy wrote.

“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,” he went on. “We must all do our part — discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.”

Also Read: After George Floyd, the Nation Says: Enough of Black Persecution Already

The “call to action” comes in response to the weekend’s events, which began when a video surfaced of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, even after Floyd exclaimed that he couldn’t breath. Chauvin has become the first white police officer in Minnesota to face criminal charges for the death of a black civilian, as he was arrested Friday on counts of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The murder charge carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years.

Read McCarthy’s full memo at the bottom.

Sony’s executives, including chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Stacy Green, EVP, chief people officer with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Paul Martin, chief diversity officer with Sony Pictures Entertainment, said they “stand in solidarity” with the Black community and peaceful protestors but were dismayed to see looting and violence amid the protests.

“We stand in solidarity with the Black community and the peaceful protesters in this movement. It is unfortunate that the movement’s central message of racial justice and equality is being clouded by a non-peaceful criminal element that is infiltrating these protests. As a result, there has been violence and looting in the communities in which many of us live and work, and curfews have been put in place. This is incredibly disconcerting. Our country is better than this,” the statement read.

Read the full statement sent internally to Sony staff below.

Also Read: George Floyd's Brother Speaks Out on Protests: Floyd 'Was About Unity' (Video)

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar also responded to the protests with a memo to employees promising “to increase our collective empathy for the Black community.”

“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,” Kilar wrote. “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 memo follows the vandalizing of WarnerMedia’s CNN Atlanta headquarters on Friday by protesters attempting to reach the police precinct located inside. As part of a tearful speech that night condemning the unrest, rapper Killer Mike criticized the cable news network.

“I like CNN … But I’d like to say to CNN: Karma’s a mother. Stop feeding fear and anger every day. Stop making people feel so fearful. Give them hope,” he said.

Also Read: Journalists Targeted at Protests by Police, Hit With Rubber Bullet and Tear Gas

While Kilar said he disagreed with those comments, Killer Mike’s speech was one of four stories shared via links in Kilar’s memo, along with a Medium blog post by Shenequa Golding discussing the frustration of trying to remain professional at work as an African American, a video essay by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, and Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 speech in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“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,” Kilar wrote.

Kilar’s memo can be read in full at the bottom.

A memo sent to all Disney employees from CEO Bob Chapek, Executive Chairman Bob Iger and Chief Diversity Officer Latondra Newton promised “real change.”

“While we don’t have all the answers, we resolve to use our compassion, our creative ideas and our collective sense of humanity to ensure we are fostering a culture that acknowledges our people’s feelings and their pain,” the memo reads. “We also realize that now more than ever is the time for us all to further strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion everywhere.

“We intend to focus our efforts and resources to compassionately and constructively talk about these matters openly and honestly as we seek solutions. We intend to keep the conversation going, not just today, but for as long as it takes to bring about real change.”

Disney’s memo can be read in full by clicking here.

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Read Chris McCarthy’s memo reads in full:

Team,

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:

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.

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.

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.

Thank you,

Chris

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Read Jason Kilar’s full memo below:

Team -

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.

Jason

# # #

Message from Tony Vinciquerra, Stacy Green and Paul Martin re: George Floyd / Recent Protests

Dear Colleagues,

We wanted to take a moment to address the tragic, wrongful death of George Floyd and the pain and anguish it continues to cause around the world.

The images we have all seen over the last several days are horrible. They illustrate just how deeply the anger and resentment over racial injustice is felt in our communities, and the need for us as a nation to address this issue.

Among SPE’s guiding principles and values are diversity and inclusion and holding ourselves to the highest possible standards in all we do. These have been, and continue to be, top priorities for us as a company, and they have never been more important than they are right now.

We stand in solidarity with the Black community and the peaceful protesters in this movement. It is unfortunate that the movement’s central message of racial justice and equality is being clouded by a non-peaceful criminal element that is infiltrating these protests. As a result, there has been violence and looting in the communities in which many of us live and work, and curfews have been put in place. This is incredibly disconcerting. Our country is better than this.

The company recognizes just how hard this is for everyone, especially our Black employee population. Please know that we support you during this difficult time.

Please make sure that you are aware of what is happening in your communities and that you are following local guidance and curfews to keep yourselves and your families safe.

Tony, Stacy and Paul

Read original story Sony, WarnerMedia, Disney, ViacomCBS Weigh in on George Floyd Protests Urging ‘Collective Empathy,’ ‘Action’ At TheWrap