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Disney versus Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is far from over. And Disney is the state’s largest private-sector employer, so this is a battle between giants – one that DeSantis clearly welcomes as he plots a run for president.
At issue: Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, that would ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade. Disney CEO Bob Chapek tiptoed around the bill at first, was pilloried by employees, and then publicly criticized the bill after it passed the state’s legislature. Chapek apologized to LGBTQ employees, but his words did little to lower the temperature. Some employees staged brief walkouts last week, ahead of a “full day walkout” slated to take place on Tuesday.
How many will participate? No one knows. “It’s unclear whether it will draw a crowd” among studios employees, CNBC’s Julia Boorstin wrote, “as only a fraction of employees have been coming in to work on the lot.”
But the earlier walkouts garnered a lot of attention, and “the act of protest will culminate” on Tuesday, as The AP’s Mike Schneider put it. Three new stories have outstanding insight into this issue…
Chapek’s decision backfired
The WSJ’s Robbie Whelan, Erich Schwartzel and Joe Flint nailed it with this lead:
“Chapek made a decision at the start of the year: Disney was staying out of politics. The strategy was meant in part to help the entertainment giant avoid the culture clashes between executives and employees that have plagued many companies in recent years, said people familiar with his thinking. Instead, it backfired.”
Chapek’s mishandling of the Florida fight “managed to offend both progressives, who wanted the company to do and say more to fight the bill, and conservatives, who wanted Disney to stay out of the debate and now claim it is bowing to liberal agitators within its ranks.”
>> Chapek’s contract is up for renewal next February, so “several current and former Disney executives described the next 11 months as a critical period for the CEO,” the WSJ team added…
The view from Florida
CNN’s expert in all things Florida politics, Steve Contorno, is out with an excellent new story about how the Disney dispute has further bolstered DeSantis’s standing within the GOP. It has also “exposed a widening chasm between the current crop of Republican leaders and the corporations that have traditionally curried favor with the GOP,” Contorno wrote…
>> Christopher Miles, a Miami-based GOP consultant, told Contorno that watching a Florida governor go after Disney was “not a world I expected to be living in a couple of years ago.” But DeSantis, like Donald Trump, has gained popularity by bucking conventional wisdom…
Chapek and Iger at odds
In media insider circles, the weekend’s #1 read was Alex Sherman’s story for CNBC about the falling out between Chapek and his predecessor Bob Iger. It’s a rift that now “looms over Disney’s future.”
In the wake of the Florida debacle, several Disney employees have called Iger “to express their disappointment in Chapek,” Sherman reported. But “while public controversies generate headlines, it’s likely to be Chapek’s internal changes, and how successful they become, that will determine his future as Disney’s CEO.”
One of the key changes is the elevation of Kareem Daniel, who has profit and loss oversight over Disney’s media and entertainment businesses. Daniel has “one of the most powerful jobs ever created in media,” Sherman wrote. Daniel has not given any interviews since his October 2020 promotion. Read all about the internal intrigue here…
Moments of silence on ESPN
We noted on Friday that ESPN announcers Carolyn Peck and Courtney Lyle showed solidarity with fellow employees by going silent for two minutes at the start of the NCAA women’s tournament. During Sunday’s tournament coverage, they did it again, remaining silent “for about two minutes as the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Miami Hurricanes tipped off,” per Analis Bailey of USA Today.
“Announcers Stephanie White and Pam Ward also observed a moment of silence during Saturday’s game in Connecticut,” Bailey added. And Elle Duncan mentioned the walkouts on the air on Friday…