Over the past several weeks, a controversial Florida bill has been the topic of several news stories.
The bill has been heavily criticized by some individuals and groups, and some had called for Disney to issue a statement in response to the issue. Disney ultimately did issue a statement of sorts that was shared by Good Morning America, and we shared more details about that here. Now, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, has made some comments of his own on this bill and we’ve got all the details.
For full details about the Bill, what proponents and critics of the Bill say, Disney’s earlier statement, the comments issued by former Disney CEO Bob Iger, criticisms that have been made about Disney in relation to the Bill, and more, click here
The bill at issue is what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. Its full name is the Parental Rights in Education Bill. The Hill notes that, if passed, the Bill would “restrict mention of LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms that are not ‘age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.’” The bill would also provide parents with “greater authority to take legal action against school districts believed to be in violation.”
Again, Disney did issue a statement previously that was shared through Good Morning America. But recently Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued an internal email addressing the Bill as well.
According to Deadline, in the memo, Chapek shared that he “met with a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss controversial legislation pending in Florida that would impact their communities.” Chapek noted that it was a conversation he would “not forget.”
Chapek noted that one common theme that appeared was the “disappointment” that Disney had not issued a public statement that formally condemned the legislation. That was compounded by the fact that Disney “has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community.”
In the memo, Chapek states, “I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And, we are Committed to creating a more inclusive company—and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do.”
Chapek then went on to discuss just why Disney hasn’t issued a formal statement (other than what was shared by GMA). Chapek said that they would have a “more fulsome conversation about this at the company-wide Reimagine Tomorrow Summit in April.” Deadline notes, however, that the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill is scheduled for a vote today (March 7th) in the Florida Senate.
Thus, Deadline shares that by the time Disney gets to the summit in April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would have likely already signed the bill into Law (assuming it passes the Senate and the Governor does sign it). Deadline shares that “If that occurs, virtually all discussion or teaching about the LGBTQ+ community and ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ will be banned in the state’s public school system.”
In Chapek’s statement, he does seem to acknowledge timing being a factor by sharing that he would “preview” that discussion through the memo “as it is so timely.” Chapek then noted that “As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”
According to Chapek, he does not want anyone to mistake the lack of a formal statement as a lack of support. Chapek shared “We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there.” Again reiterating the same concepts contained in the statement shared by GMA, Chapek said that he feels the “best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we producethe welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support.”
Chapek then went on to cite several examples of “diverse stories” that he says act as the Company’s “corporate statements” — things like Encanto, Black Panther, Modern Family, and Love, Victor.
According to Chapek, “Powerful content that changes hearts and minds only springs from inclusive cultures.” Chapek also noted that Disney will continue to “Be a leader in supporting organizations that champion diversity.”
In response to criticisms made about Disney’s political contributions to individuals who have supported the Don’t Say Gay Bill, Chapek said, “While we have not given money to any politician based on this issue, we have contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation.”
Chapek also noted that Disney’s new Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Geoff Morrell, would be “reassessing” Disney’s advocacy strategies around the world, including in the realm of political donations.
Chapek ended his memo stating, “Our company has been a force for inclusion for a long time—and that will not change on my watch. We all have a role to play in this effort…I hope we will all continue rowing in the direction of a better tomorrow.”
This is a developing situation. We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates. Again, if you want to read our article with more details about the Bill and what others in the Disney realm have said, click here.
You can read the full memo from Bob Chapek, as provided by Deadline, below.
Before getting to the heart of my message, I want to acknowledge all those impacted by the invasion of Ukraine, especially our team in Europe and our employees around the world who have family in the region. This is an unimaginably difficult time, and my thoughts are with you. I also want to thank the ABC News team covering the horrific events there. Their courage and dedication to informing the world during this crisis is exemplary.
On Friday, I met with a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss controversial legislation pending in Florida that would impact their communities. I want to thank them for a meaningful, illuminating, and at times deeply moving conversation. I told the group I would write to the entire company with my thoughts on the issues we discussed. I wish every one of our employees could have heard not just the passionate voices in the room, but the bravery, honesty, and pride those voices expressed. It is a conversation I will not forget.
One common theme was disappointment that the company has not issued a public statement condemning the legislation. That disappointment was compounded by the fact that, while not perfect, our company has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community—and in fact, has played an important role in the personal journeys of so many of our employees.
I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team stand unequivocally in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And, we are committed to creating a more inclusive company—and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do.
I also believe you deserve an explanation for why we have not issued a statement. We are going to have a more fulsome conversation about this at the company-wide Reimagine Tomorrow Summit in April, but I will preview that discussion now as it is so timely.
As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.
I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support. We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there. And because this struggle is much bigger than any one bill in any one state, I believe the best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support .
There’s a reason content is at the top of this list. For nearly a century, our company’s stories have opened minds, inspired dreams, shown the world both as it is and how we wish it could be, and now more than ever before, represent the incredible diversity of our society. We are telling important stories, raising voices, and I believe, changing hearts and minds.
Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Reservation Dogs, Coco, Soul, Modern Family, Shang-Chi, Summer of Soul, Love, Victor. These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements—and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort. I firmly believe that our ability to tell such stories—and have received them with open eyes, ears, and hearts—would be diminished if our company were to become a political football in any debate.
Powerful content that changes hearts and minds only springs from inclusive cultures, which not only attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, but also give those employees the freedom to bring forth ideas that reflect their lives and experiences. We must work together to ensure Disney always remains such a place.
In terms of our communities, we are and will continue to be a leader in supporting organizations that champion diversity. In 2021, we provided nearly $3 million to support the work of LGBTQ+ organizations. And, we have a long history of supporting important events like Pride parades, and for being there in times of need, just as we were following the Pulse shooting in Orlando. All this is why we have earned a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign for 16 years in a row.
Finally, I want to address concerns about our political contributions in Florida. While we have not given money to any politician based on this issue, we have contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation. I can also share that Geoff Morrell, our new Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, will be reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world—including political giving—as he begins to integrate the communications, public policy, government relations and CSR teams.
Our company has been a force for inclusion for a long time—and that will not change on my watch. We all have a role to play in this effort—from the Cast Members who make magical memories for fans and families of all kinds, to storytellers who take audiences on journeys to new storyworlds that illuminate our own, to everyone in between who is responsible for ensuring our culture lives up to our values. I hope we will all continue rowing in the direction of a better tomorrow.