Disney ramps up corporate activism in trying to repeal new ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

4-21-22 – This story was updated with information on the Flordia governor and legislature’s response to Disney’s defense efforts.

The Walt Disney Company recently increased its level of corporate activism. When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation into law last month, the entertainment conglomerate announced it would work to help repeal it.

According to the New York Times, in response to Disney’s defense efforts, “the Florida House [today] voted to revoke Disney World’s designation as a special taxing district, a privilege Disney has had for 55 years, allowing the company to self-govern its 25,000-acre theme park complex.

“The Florida Senate on Wednesday voted to eliminate the special zone, which is called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Having cleared the way for this outcome with a formal proclamation, Governor Ron DeSantis will almost certainly make the measure official by adding his signature. It would come into force in June of next year.

Disney Change of Heart

But Disney’s decision to wade into the controversy represents a major shift in its position. Just a few weeks ago the company said would not comment on the measure. In fact, his activism on this issue does not appear to have been entirely voluntary. The change of heart could be attributed, ironically, to the activism of his employees and the lobbying of others.

According Variety, “… [Disney CEO Bob Chapek] sparked backlash over Disney’s muted response to the bill as it made its way through the Florida legislature, as well as a report that the company has given money to the bill’s backers. Variety exclusively reported that before the bill passed the Florida Senate, Disney’s LGBTQ employees sent the CEO and other company leaders a letter requesting the company to ‘issue’ a public statement condemning anti-LGBTQIA+ policies in the US.”

Disney Statement

Last month, Disney said in a statement that the legislation “…should never have been passed and should never have become law.”

“Our goal as a company is to have this law struck down by the legislature or struck down in court, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve this. We are dedicated to defending the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

However Disney got to this point, however, it remains to be seen how or if their decision to make headlines will affect their image, reputation, and bottom line.

It will take more than a statement

Gillian Full Oak is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Miami Farmer School of Business. She noted, “Given that it took an employee strike, it will take much more than a statement for Disney to be perceived as taking a stand that doesn’t feel like a simple rainbow wash.

“Disney has to walk the walk on this issue. It has to contribute significantly to repealing the law in a way that requires some risk of alienating consumers in the marketplace while looking inside its own corporate policies in terms of political contributions and product censorship,” he noted.

‘Corporate activism requires courage’

“This is not an issue that a large corporation can take a soft stance on,” Oakenfull said. “Corporate activism requires courage, requires authenticity, and requires perseverance. Disney has to decide what and who it represents and has to go far beyond statements to repair its reputation among those who value human rights and those employees who need an employee to protect them from prejudice.”

Setting a positive example

Michael Rose, founding partner of the law firm hash and roseHe said Disney’s opposition “sets a positive example that shows corporations are willing to take a stand and fight for causes they believe in and know are just and right.

“As a brand, Disney prides itself on inclusion, and that inclusion revolves around everyone’s right to be who they are and to be free to say that to anyone without fear, reproach or discrimination.

“And to see a corporation defend that, right? Make your voice heard and categorically state your beliefs? That shows everyone that they wholeheartedly believe in their core mission and everything the brand stands for and stands for,” Rose said.

A bold commitment

Michael Ruizco-founder and CEO of BiasSync, noted that “Disney’s decision to become actively involved in repealing Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law can be seen as a bold commitment to its employees, stakeholders and customers to speak up and defend against a law that is considered unfair and hostile to members of the LGBTQIA community and their families.

“And while some may try to frame this as a partisan issue, Disney employees demonstratively and forcefully demonstrated that this is a matter of right or wrong, and their expectation that Disney’s leadership align with their values.” Ruiz said.

an educated judgment

ryan refifferta Texas corporate attorney, noted that “As a company always does, Disney is simply taking the actions it believes will maximize shareholder value.

“In this case, their outspoken opposition to the ‘don’t say gay’ law represents a judgment by Disney that opposition will maximize profits, value, customer goodwill, etc., rather than support the law or even save money.” silence”.

Said Reiffert: “Disney’s position is nothing more and nothing less than an educated judgment of very smart people who actively or tacitly support the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will be frowned upon by customers, in general, everywhere. the world.

In other words, for Disney, the wind is clearly blowing in favor of equal rights for gay people. And I would have to say I agree with that assessment.”

‘Bold and troublesome’

Crisis management expert Pedro M. Gigliotti he said that Disney’s challenge to the law “is both audacious and problematic”. and its economic viability.

“It is also a decision that in our culturally divided nation will quickly become the focus of political attacks based not on the merits of the action, but on the ability to appeal to a particular base,” he noted.

‘A huge public relations faux pas’

Jeremy Knauff, CEO of spartan meanshe thought “Disney made a huge public relations misstep by aligning itself with political activists to mislabel HB 1557—officially called the Parents’ Rights in Education Actl like the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill because that title is clearly bogus.

‘Misleading PR spin’

“Polls indicate that most Americans already know that this name is nothing more than a clever but misleading PR spin. And after the barrage of media coverage and social media posts about the bill, many who previously believed the inaccurate headlines ended up reading the actual bill and discovering that the vast majority of reporting on it has been false.

‘Will Continue to Harm the Disney Brand’

“This has already and will continue to damage the Disney brand, both because of its false positioning on the issue and because it is putting activism ahead of its customer base of families with children,” Knauff said.

the great question

Crisis management expert Gigliotti said the company’s defiance of the law, “after Disney’s initial reaction that was widely criticized internally and externally, it may appear to some that the company is trying to repair its damaged image. For others, it will be seen as another company giving in to an ‘awakened’ society.

“While other companies may see this as an opportunity to join the fight for what they see as human rights, I think Disney will fight alone. The big question is who is going to win: Mickey or Governor DeSantis?” she concluded.

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