AP

Brands weigh in on national protests over police brutality

Jun 2, 2020, 6:18 AM
Netflix prices...
FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. Netflix's normally lighthearted Twitter account took on a more somber tone on Saturday, May 30, 2020: "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." (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

As thousands of protesters take to the streets in response to police killings of black people, companies are wading into the national conversation but taking care to get their messaging right.

Netflix’s normally lighthearted Twitter account took on a more somber tone on Saturday: “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.” That got retweeted over 216,000 times and “liked” over a million times.

The streaming service is just one of many corporate brands that have turned to social media to voice concerns over racial injustice after the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

At the same time, companies must consider whether it makes sense for them to weigh in, especially on an issue as sensitive as race.

“It’s brand activism,” said Alexander Chernev, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “It’s not surprising. But companies have to think very carefully before they take a stand on these issues.”

There are plenty of examples of brands speaking out forcefully on social media, particularly in industries where cultural awareness is crucial. WarnerMedia, which is owned by AT&T and includes brands like HBO and TBS, changed their handles to #BlackLivesMatter and all posted the same James Baldwin quote: “Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.”

Twitter changed its iconic profile image to black with the Black Lives Matter hashtag. Media giant ViacomCBS tweeted “Black Lives Matter. Black Culture Matters. Black Communities Matter,” and on Monday announced that its cable properties like MTV and Comedy Central will go dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd.

Nike, which famously took on the racial injustice issue head-on with its ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, revealed a new video ad on Friday that bore the words: “For once, don’t do it.” The ad, a twist on its “Do it” motto, urged viewers not to “pretend there’s not a problem in America.”

But some companies that offered up statements of support were called out on their own track records on race. L’Oreal, one of the world’s biggest cosmetics companies, tweeted Monday: “Speaking out is worth it,” and pledged a “commitment” to the NAACP. That drew swift criticism online from those who see the company’s business model and advertising as focused on white consumers.

Likewise, Amazon’s tweet urging the end of ″the inequitable and brutal treatment of black people” received backlash from followers, who questioned the company’s own commitment during the coronavirus pandemic in which employees have been complaining about unsafe working conditions.

Other companies have been kept their messages broad. For instance, The Walt Disney Co. and its brands, like Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, all posted the same statement on Twitter about standing for inclusion and with the black community. Starbucks, which took heat in 2018 when two black men in one of its Philadelphia stores were arrested for not ordering anything, simply said it will stand in solidarity with black partners, customers and communities: “We will not be bystanders.”

Brand experts say corporate America needs to go beyond statements and outline what they plan to do to combat racism.

“Expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Movement is the right message, but everyone is jumping in on that bandwagon,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder and managing partner of Metaforce a marketing and product consultancy. “Just saying you are standing with them is nice but probably isn’t going to be meaningful for them or for the brand. It can be seen as opportunistic.”

Wendy Liebmann, founder and CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, agrees, saying there is no reason to make a public statement unless the company actually has a concrete plan to help resolve the issue of racism. She praised Peloton’s Twitter pledge to donate $500,000 to the NAACP legal defense fund as an example.

Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co. is also backing its statements with money, committing $100,000 to its longstanding partner ACLU. YouTube pledged $1 million to support efforts addressing social injustice. And semiconductor chip manufacturer Intel is pledging $1 million to address social justice and racism.

Some of the most moving statements so far have come from corporate executives who are black.

Marvin Ellison, president and CEO of home improvement chain Lowe’s tweeted a statement about growing up in the Jim Crow South and the company’s zero tolerance for racism, discrimination and hate. Citigroup’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason repeated Floyd’s words “I can’t breathe” in an emotional corporate blog post.

And Jide Zeitlin, chairman and CEO of Kate Spade, Coach and Stuart Weitzman parent Tapestry Inc., who along with Ellison is one of only a handful of black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, noted in a heartfelt LinkedIn post to his employees that some of Tapestry’s stores had been damaged during the protests but he said his focus quickly turned to the looters after determining his staff was safe.

“What was going through their minds as they acted? Has our society truly left them with little to lose and few other ways to force the rest of us to come to the negotiating table?” he wrote. “We can replace our windows and handbags, but we cannot bring back George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and too many others. Each of these black lives matter.”

Today’s Top Stories

AP

In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
3 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
4 days ago
Trump pictured. A lawsuit against Trump was just filed in new york...
Associated Press

NY attorney general sues Donald Trump and his company

Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit is the culmination of the Democrat's three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization.
5 days ago
el helicoide caracas...
RODRIQUE NGOWI, GISELA SALOMON and CLAUDIA TORRENS Associated Press

Surprise is key part of migrant travel from Florida, Texas

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — The chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was wrapping up work when she looked outside to see 48 strangers at her office with luggage, backpacks and red folders that included brochures for her organization. The Venezuelan migrants who were flown to the wealthy Massachusetts island from San Antonio on Wednesday […]
7 days ago
school classrooms...
Collin Binkley Associated Press

Reading, math scores fell sharply during pandemic, data show

WASHINGTON (AP) — Math and reading scores for America’s 9-year-olds fell dramatically during the first two years of the pandemic, according to a new federal study — offering an early glimpse of the sheer magnitude of the learning setbacks dealt to the nation’s children. Reading scores saw their largest decrease in 30 years, while math […]
11 days ago
FILE - Roger Federer of Switzerland waves to spectators as he leaves the court after he lost to Ale...
HOWARD FENDRICH ASSOCIATED PRESS

Roger Federer says he is retiring from professional tennis

(AP) — Roger Federer announced Thursday that he is retiring from professional tennis at age 41 after winning 20 Grand Slam titles. This decision comes just days after the end of the U.S. Open, which is expected to be the last tournament of 23-time major champion Serena Williams’ career, and signals the real end of […]
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Brands weigh in on national protests over police brutality