Branded Protest: Netflix, Starbucks, Sesame Street, and More React to George Floyd’s Death

Soon after Nike opened the floodgates with an anti-racism ad that reversed its famous tagline and proclaimed, “Don’t Do It”, major brands have joined the clamor for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death set off protests that spread from Minneapolis across America.

Entertainment, apparel, and tech companies have released statements on their social media pages ranging from expressions of solidarity, an intent to donate to related causes, to outright condemnation.

“Now is not the time for silence,” said Sweden-based music streaming company Spotify.

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Disney, as well as its brands Marvel Studios and Star Wars, tweeted that they “stand with our fellow Black employees, storytellers, creators and the entire Black community.”

Today, top Disney executives also denounced the death of Floyd and other similar instances, saying in a statement that “Feelings of grief and anger cause us to confront the inscrutable idea that the lives of some are deemed less valuable – and less worthy of dignity, care and protection – than the lives of others.”

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Over the weekend, Netflix said, “To be silent is to be complicit.”

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“We will not be bystanders,” said coffee chain Starbucks, whose headquarters are based in Seattle, Washington.

Brian Cornell, the CEO of American retail brand Target, released a statement that said, “We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities—it extends across America. The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.”

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Target’s stores have been hit by looters as some protests escalated into violence. Nevertheless, Cornell continued: “It's hard to see now, but the day will come for healing—and our team will join our hearts, hands and resources in that journey.”

According to Business Insider, the CEO of McDonald’s, Chris Kempczinski, wrote a similar letter to employees that “[acknowledged] the protests igniting around the country.”

While the main social Facebook and Twitter pages of Apple remained product-centric (or in the Twitter account's case, completely empty), Apple Music tweeted that the company would be using its voice to “speak and act against racism and injustice of all kinds.” 

“Justice is how we heal,” wrote Apple CEO Tim Cook in a letter to employees.

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Social media platforms also responded to the events sweeping across the United States.

Over the weekend, Twitter changed its logo to a black and white version. Its diversity initiative, Twitter Together, acknowledged the two crises hitting America, saying, “Racism does not adhere to social distancing.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post yesterday that he is earmarking $10 million for groups working against racial inequality. Still, he acknowledged, “I know that $10 million can't fix this. It needs sustained, long term effort.”

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Some Facebook employees, however, had pushed back against what they perceived as the platform’s inaction against inflammatory statements on social media by President Donald Trump, who last week said, “[W]hen the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Spurred on by Nike’s first decisive action, sports and apparel brands have joined the calls for action. Germany-based company Adidas took the unprecedented step of retweeting its rival’s anti-racism ad, and then followed up with an equally stark ad of its own:

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Sesame Street, the storied children’s brand whose shows have spoken out against racism from the very beginning, perhaps expressed it best: “Racism has no place on our Street—or on any street.”

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Ever since the video of Floyd's death went viral a week ago, protests have rocked the United States. Today, President Donald Trump threatened to call in the military if the nationwide unrest continues. He also labeled violent protests as "domestic acts of terror."

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