Employees, who walked out in droves today, want the parent company to "permanently pull funding from supporters" of the homophobic legislation.
After continuing controversy over its dubious response to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, Disney is now facing a day of widespread public backlash from within its own various entertainment arms. This Tuesday, a host of its companies, from Hulu to Disney+ to ESPN, have posted statements on their official social media channels expressing solidarity with the queer community while condemning anti-LGBTQ legislation. The statements come amid a planned walkout on the same day from employees across the Disney empire.
“Disney+ stands by our LGBTQIA+ employees, colleagues, families, storytellers, and fans, and we strongly denounce all legislation that infringes on the basic human rights of people in the LGBTQIA+ community — especially legislation that targets and harms young people and their families,” the streaming platform tweeted in a statement mirrored by several other Disney properties. “We strive to create a service that reflects the world in which we live, and our hope is to be a source for inclusive, empowering, and authentic stories that unite us in our shared humanity.”
The responses come after weeks of internal conflicts over Disney (one of Florida’s largest employers) and CEO Bob Chapek’s determined silence over Florida’s House Bill 1557, which limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms and promises to have far-reaching implications around instruction and even mental health services for children. In an initial March 7 memo sent to staff, Chapek defended the company’s lack of statement, claiming it would do little and only be weaponized to “further divide and inflame.”
This was followed days later by another memo in which Chapek changed course and apologized for letting staff down in his lack of response. The memo also promised a pause on political donations to the state and a meeting with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the bill after Chapek spoke to DeSantis over the phone expressing his disapproval of the bill.
Pushback, though, has continued, including a virtual walkout last week, a public list of demands, and outspoken criticism by individual Disney employees and creators. The coordinated public statements this week, along with the physical walkout, constitute the most unified and organized backlash thus far.
“One thing we’d like to reiterate: The pressure here is for Disney to permanently pull funding from supporters of this bill,” a “DisneyWalkout” account on Twitter that was created by employees wrote while workers across the corporation enacted their protest. “This is about our community’s and castmemebers [sic] in FL and it always will be.”