Disney CEO Bob Chapek Hesitant To Denounce Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill” Amid Intense Backlash

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Credit: Disney

Bob Chapek, the current CEO of The Walt Disney Company just can’t seem to avoid controversy.

bob chapek onstage
Credit: Disney

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From Disney Genie and Lightning Lane to budget cuts and food portions shrinking, the Disney community has had a lot to say about the new CEO ever since he took over for Bob Iger back in 2020. Now, the CEO has found himself in some more hot water as the controversy surrounding a new bill from Florida, Walt Disney World’s home state continues.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Bob Chapek recently sent out a statement to employees regarding The Walt Disney Company’s stance on the Sunshine State’s new “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

disney ceo chapek
Credit: Screenshot Bloomberg/ITM

Related: Disney Backs Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Despite Preaching Inclusivity

Known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, this piece of legislation is as simple as the title. As stated by NPR, “The legislation prohibits any instruction about sexuality or gender between kindergarten and third grade, or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

In recent years, The Walt Disney Company has made great strides in making all its products and experiences more inclusive and welcoming to all people groups, however, one representation is becoming a big focal point for all companies across the world and Disney Guests have surely noticed a lot of changes, especially within the Disney Parks.

Bob Chapek and Bob Iger
Credit: Variety

However, many fans and Guests alike have been critical of The Walt Disney Company for remaining silent on this new bill, with many asking how the company can act “progressive” and “inclusive” while actually funding several sponsors of the bill.

Bob Chapek, Hong Kong Disneyland
Credit: WTHR.com

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As for the decision not to release a statement, Chapek told staff, “I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support. As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds,” Chapek added. “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.”

Bob Chapek Bob Iger The Walt Disney Company
Credit: CNBC

See Chapek’s full statement to staff below:

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 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.

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 them received 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.

How do you feel about Bob Chapek as CEO? Let us know in the comments below. 

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