Disney creatives derive frustration with CEO Chapek over the response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Bob Chapek, Disney CEO of Boston College Chief Executives Club, November 15, 2021.

Charles Krupa | AP

Senior executives across Disney’s creative studios have expressed frustration with CEO Bob Chapek over his handling of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, people with knowledge of the case told CNBC.

Chapek met with senior management teams from the media giant’s creative studios after the company’s annual meeting on March 9. Many have expressed frustration over Disney’s reluctance to take a firm stand against the bill, people said.

Employees also raised concerns in the wake of the meeting, saying Chapek did not respond critically to homophobic comments from a shareholder during the Q&A period, according to the people, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss internal conversations at Disney.

Chapek and Disney faced pressure not to come out earlier in opposition to the Florida Parental Rights Bill. The legislation prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools for third-grade kindergartens. It has been dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” and criticized by proponents who believe the bill could harm marginalized people.

In the past week, managers have hosted town halls and met staff to hear their frustrations and concerns, people said. Some were reassured by an email Chapek sent Friday to express its commitment to supporting and engaging the LGBTQ + community and to put all political donations in Florida on hold, pending review.

Yet many of these people say they are waiting to see the company take appropriate action against the bill. Some employees have organized a strike in protest on Tuesday.

The layoff is set to coincide with the timing of a company’s “imagine tomorrow” event. This event was scheduled for March 2, and these regular discussions typically cover current topics and are held monthly. Tuesday’s headline reads “LGBTQ + employees, executives and allies get Disney Real.”

The invitation to the virtual event, which was released on Thursday morning, reads: “Employees can expect an honest conversation that addresses the following: How does the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and other pending legislation affect LGBTQ + children and families? Why does LGBTQ + BERG- leaders and allies organized internally to hold the company accountable? What does it take to rebuild trust in our employees and LGBTQ + communities? “

It is unclear how many people will attend Tuesday’s walkout. Only a fraction of the employees have come to work on the site.

Disney did not comment on this article.

Chapek’s email to employees on Friday addressed the broader frustration.

He wrote: “Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me and shared your pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response to the Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Speak to you, read your messages and meet with you. Helped me to better understand how painful our silence was.Clearly this is not just a matter of a bill in Florida, but instead another challenge to fundamental human rights.You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I failed you. I’m sorry. “

He announced that the company is increasing its support for advocacy groups to fight legislation similar to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in other states and is pausing all political donations in the state of Florida.

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