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Disney Ramps Up Its Corporate Activism By Seeking To Repeal New ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at March 30, 2022

The Walt Disney Company is ramping up its level of corporate activism. When Florida Gov. Ron Desantis signed the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay” legislation into law this week, the entertainment giant announced it will work to help repeal it.

Their decision to wade deeper into the controversy represented a 180-degree change in Disney’s official position. Only a few weeks ago the company said it would take no stance on the measure.

Now, the organization said in a statement that, the legislation, “…should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.

“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.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

Yesterday, Desantis said, “For [Disney] to say that they’re going to work to repeal substantive protections for parents, as a company that’s supposedly marketing its services to parents with young children, I think they crossed the line.”

It remains to be seen how Disney’s headline-making decision to work to repeal the controversial law will impact its image, reputation, and bottom line.

Setting A Positive Example

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

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

And seeing a corporation stand up for that right? Making its voice heard and categorically stating its beliefs? That shows everyone that they believe wholeheartedly in their core mission and everything that the brand represents and stands for.”

A Bold Commitment

Michele Ruiz, co-founder and CEO of BiasSync, observed that” Disney’s decision to get actively involved in overturning Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law can be viewed as a bold commitment to its employees, stakeholders and its customers to speak up and stand up against a law that is deemed to be unfair and hostile to members of the LGBTQIA community and their family members.

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

An Educated Judgement

Attorney Ryan Reiffert noted that “As a company always does, Disney is quite simply taking the actions that it believes will maximize shareholder value.

“In this case, its vocal opposition to the ‘don’t say gay’ law represents a judgment by Disney that opposition will maximize profit, value, customer goodwill, etc. etc. rather than supporting the law or even being silent.

Seiffert said that” Disney’s position is nothing more and nothing less than an educated judgment by very smart people that actively or tacitly support the ‘don’t say gay’ bill will be looked upon poorly by customers, as a whole, worldwide. In other words, to Disney, the wind is clearly blowing in favor of equal rights for gay people. And I would have to say that I agree with that assessment.”

‘Bold And Problematic’

Crisis management expert Peter M. Gigliotti said that “Disney’s challenge to the law, “is both bold and problematic. While companies or organizations have previously boycotted states over laws they consider objectionable, attempting to have such a law overturned is a decision that will definitely affect all aspects of Disney’s operation, particularly its image 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 Misstep’

Jeremy Knauff, CEO of Spartan Media, thought that “Disney made a huge public relations misstep by falling in line with political activists to mislabel HB 1557—officially called the Parental Rights in Education Bill, as the ‘don’t say gay’ bill because that title is clearly false.

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

“This has already, and will continue to damage Disney’s brand, both because of its disingenuous positioning on the topic, and because it’s putting activism ahead of its customer base of families with children,” he said.

The Big Question

Crisis management expert Gigliotti said that the company’s challenge to the law, “coming after Disney’s initial reaction that was widely criticized internally and externally, may look to some as if the company is attempting to repair its damaged image. To others, it will look like another company caving to a ‘woke’ society.

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

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