Walt Disney Co. initially took the heat for not taking a public stand on Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill – and now they’re on fire for doing just that.
Other studios, however, have moved away from the wrath of the Sunshine State.
NBCUniversal has no public comment on the new law, including the presence of its rival theme park in Orlando. Paramount, Sony and Netflix also did not weigh in public.
Whether they like it or not, the problem doesn’t go away, even companies try to avoid the curse-if-you-do-you-do-you-don’t-do-situation situation that has angered Disney.
Late last weekend, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis suggested that a 55-year-old special district, giving the company self-governing powers around Walt Disney World, should be returned, while Fox News’ Laura Ingraham suggested that “everything will be on the table,” copyright Disbelief in security, when Republicans return to power, has also alienated Apple, whose CEO Tim Cook has also spoken out against the Florida Bill.
On Tuesday, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Killer told CNBC: “I think this is a business issue. Yes politics is involved here but it is also a business issue, in which we strongly believe that anti-LGBTQ laws are anti-business, and we do not think that one person’s life or one person’s identity or one person’s love is more or less worthy of another. So we feel strongly about it, and we think it’s as much about politics as it is about business. “
Representatives from other studios, as well as Netflix, did not respond to requests for comment.
NBCU, Paramount Global, WarnerMedia and Sony Interactive Entertainment are among the more than 200 companies that have signed a human rights statement opposing the wave of anti-LGBTQ state law.
And according to GLAAD, Comcast NBCU, WarnerMedia and Disney will each donate airtime for a PSA, which will be launched this week, about a Texas family with a transgender child. The governor of that state has issued a directive that state officials should investigate gender-guaranteed medical care as a form of child abuse. The directive is pending court review.
But GLAAD is urging Hollywood to speak out more forcefully – and openly – against state law.
During the GLAAD Awards on Saturday, CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said, “In this moment of crisis, our community is holding companies accountable. So I have a message for the industry: don’t wait until you’re in the hot seat. There is no time to sit next to him. We need Hollywood at the forefront, fighting for our rights and telling our stories. “
The Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, which Dissentis signed last week, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in K-3 grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students by state standards.” Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
So far, almost all the focus – and feedback – has been on Disney
As one of the largest employers in the state, the company was initially publicly neutral on the law, adopting the once-common attitude towards corporate America to avoid cultural fault lines. As it became clear that the law was likely to become law, CEO Bob Chapek turned himself in and spoke out against it in public, acknowledging that “our original method, no matter how well-intentioned, did not work out perfectly.”
Shortly after DeSantis signed the bill, Disney came out with a strong statement promising to work for its repeal. “Our goal as a company is to have this law repealed by the legislature or hit the courts, and we are committed to supporting national and state agencies working to achieve this,” the company said.
This set off a reaction by DeSantis and the Conservatives. Suddenly, Disney was not only a corporation opposing a statewide bill but, according to commentators on the right, an “awake” company seeking to educate children about the Left LGBTQ agenda. Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted that “next year, the awakened Disney lobbyists will ask Congress to raise Mickey.” [sic] Mouse trademark. I don’t think so. “He seems to have mixed the trademark with the copyright, but you got the new threat and rhetorical point to the corporation for talking.
Similar bills are being proposed in other states, including Georgia, where there is a large manufacturing presence. A version of the Parental Rights Bill was introduced there last month and, although it is not going very far in this legislative session, there are some expectations for next year, as well as for it to be an issue during the campaign. In 2016, as a religious freedom bill passed through Georgia’s legislature, all major studios, along with other corporations, condemned it. The law was vetoed by then-Republican Gov. Nathan Dill. Disney, Netflix and WarnerMedia have all made public objections to Georgia’s abortion law, which is pending in court.
In an interview with Chris Wallace last week, former Disney CEO Bob Eger sued companies for taking public positions. “It’s about right and wrong,” he said, while dismissing the impact of the response. The issue didn’t really come up at last week’s Disney-hosted Wall Street investor event in Orlando.
“There is no evidence that I know that right-wing reaction hurts corporate bottom lines,” said Martin Kaplan, professor of entertainment, media and society at USC Annenberg. “The boycott is more powerful as a tool of public relations than economic sanctions. I don’t think there’s any risk in following Disney’s lead. “
Employee pressure was one reason Disney was forced to speak publicly about Florida law. Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at global marketing and communications firm Weber Sandwick, says that while Disney is now facing a right-wing response, it would have been better if Disney had remained silent on Florida law despite its pressure. The workforce to do it. He credits the company for going against himself and the public.
“I’ve been researching and understanding CEO activism for many years,” he said. “When it comes to boycotts, it fades. It is not lasting. But when it comes to your own employees, it can be detrimental and can have far-reaching effects on issues such as recruitment and questions of equality and fairness. “Companies today have to think more about their own employees, which they can’t win,” he said.
NBCU’s Parent Comcast has some of the same legislation behind the Florida law that Disney did. Yet it is not surprising that Disney, and not its rivals, have taken on so much heat, as if it were “in its own league.” Disney is a major cultural force in this country and abroad. Their focus is always on Disney, “said Bargard Tendrich, professor and associate director at the USC Center for Public Relations.
The USC Center has conducted a survey which shows that companies are increasingly taking a position on “not directly related to their field of business”. “It simply came to our notice then. That’s what we’re seeing here with Disney. They are becoming more serious or adaptable to their shareholders as well as their stakeholders. “
The Florida Bill experience can only be a prelude to things up front. Many industry lobbyists are looking to see what happens in June, when the Supreme Court could roll back Rowe v. Wade very well, leaving the states to enact their own laws. This will further test the corporate response to the country’s growing cultural rift.