Solidarity, or joining the 'bandwagon'? Some corporate activism backfires amid protests

Anousha Sakoui and Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

It was a cascade of solidarity messages from some of the biggest players in entertainment and tech.

Netflix, CBS and Amazon were among those that took to social media and sent heartfelt messages to employees this weekend to demonstrate their support for the Black Lives Matter movement as protests ran through the country. But it didn't go as planned for all of them.

Streaming giant Netflix, which has supported the work of black creators such as Shonda Rhimes and Spike Lee, was among the first entertainment companies to post support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Saturday, it tweeted, "to be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter." The company added that it had a duty to its African American customers, employees, creators and performers to speak up. Director Ava DuVernay replied, "Well done."

Some companies, however, faced skepticism over their commitment to the cause. On Sunday, Amazon, whose studio is a big employer in Los Angeles, tweeted: "together we stand in solidarity with the Black community." Civil rights campaigners such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Fight for the Future used the tweet to point out that Amazon's Ring camera-enabled doorbell has partnered with police departments, raising concerns about the risks to privacy and racial profiling.

Amazon had no immediate comment.


CBS declared its support for the demonstrations in a post on Twitter but was met with questions about why its former Los Angeles headquarters was being used by police. "Stand in solidarity with actions, not posts," wrote Carina Adly Mackenzie, creator of the CW sci-fi series "Roswell, New Mexico," which is coproduced by CBS Television Studios.

CBS has made a push to increase the diversity in its programming, with series such as "The Neighborhood" and "All Rise," after being criticized for making shows with mostly white leading roles.

"So many corporations with supportive messages," director Stella Meghie said in a tweet. "Please also feel free to address the anti-blackness within your own companies -- hire more of us, listen to us, promote us, pay us more and check the rampant microagressions faced by the Black employees and creatives you do employ."

CBS sold the Fairfax-based television studios complex last year. "CBS does not own or operate Television City," spokesman Chris Ender said in a statement. "We sold the production facility and campus to Hackman Capital in December 2018." It still uses studios at the facility such as for "The Late Late Show With James Corden" and rents offices for executives.


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