Photo: Andy Manis/ The State Journal
- As protests continue over the killing of George Floyd, many have pushed brands to speak out against racism and police brutality.
- Countless companies have responded, with some donating supplies and legal defense funds.
- Others in the music industry plan to suspend operations Tuesday and instead discuss how they can support the black community.
- However, one of the most criticized statements came from the NFL, who was slammed as disingenuous given their handling of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests.
Like celebrities, many companies have also been hit with pressure to address George Floyd’s death. So over the last week, several have released statements condemning racism and expressing their solidarity with the black community.
One of the biggest companies people turned to for comment was Target, which is actually based in Minneapolis. Target stores have been notably ransacked and set on fire in protests across the country. But even so, Target released a statement Friday in support of the demonstrations.
Company Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell penned a letter acknowledging the pain felt across America over the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, adding, “We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts.”
Then, he said teams were preparing truckloads of first aid equipment, bottled water, and other essentials “to help ensure that no one within the areas of heaviest damage and demonstration is cut off from needed supplies.”
He also promised to give full pay and benefits to all displaced team members, including over 200 from the Minneapolis store that was set on fire last week. This response was met with a ton of praise from those who were glad to see Target prioritize people over property and replaceable goods.
Still, while the company supports the protests, it made a decision the following day to temporarily close or shorten hours at nearly 200 stores for the safety of employees and guests. Team members impacted by this will be paid up to 14 days of scheduled hours during closures, including COVID-19 premium pay.
Countless Others Show Support
Target was just one of the countless brands that addressed the topic of racism and police brutality. We saw brands like Nike and Adidas speak out. Others like Hot Topic and Glossier have promised to donate money toward legal defense funds.
Tech giants like Twitter, Google, Apple, Facebook, and TikTok all raised their voices, along with other entertainment players like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Warner Brothers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many, many others.
The music industry, for its part, has organized a blackout for Tuesday, June 2, using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. As part of the initiative, several record labels have vowed to postpone new music releases and suspend business operations, calling it a day to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”
But while a flood of companies have released statements, in some cases, it actually took a lot of pushing and public call outs for brands to speak up.
For example, beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina called out clothing stores like Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Things, and Revolve for staying silent about issues facing the black community. That eventually prompted brand CEOs to reach out to her for advice or make official statements on their own.
NFL Statement Receives Criticism
And just because a company released a statement, doesn’t mean it was well-received. In fact, one of the most criticized statements came from the National Football League.
In a message from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL expressed condolences to the families of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery. It also said: “We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address the systemic issues together with our platers, clubs and partners.”
That statement did not sit well with a lot of people given the NFL’s history with Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016, famously began kneeling during the national anthem to protest the very same issues people are speaking up against now.
Many feel the NFL failed to back Kapernick at the time when he and others faced criticism from the President and team owners. Many also believe he’s been blacklisted from the league as a result of his activism. So now, this statement is being viewed as disingenuous since the organization already had a major opportunity to support the black community.
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills said “Save the bulls—,” in response to the statement.
Save the bullshit— Kenny Stills (@KSTiLLS) May 30, 2020
Director Ava DuVernay tweeted: “Shame on you. This is beyond hollow + disingenuous. This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. ”
Shame on you. This is beyond hollow + disingenuous. This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. You’ve done nothing but the exact opposite of what you describe here. Keep Mr. Floyd’s name out of your mouth. Shame on you + the “consultants” of this travesty of an organization.— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 31, 2020
Sports reporter Jemele Hill wrote, “The NFL tweeting about what happened with George Floyd is the equivalent of when the CIA recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Loved him so much y’all helped to kill him. Get outta here with the bullshit.”
As of now, it seems like people are continuing to push for action from their favorite brands and celebs, arguing that silence is complicity.
Though there have been an overwhelming amount of companies condemning racism, it’ll be important to see which of these groups actually remain committed to supporting the black community in the long run.
NFL Reaches Agreement to End Race-Norming, New Testing Formula Remains Unclear
The practice, which was adopted by the league in the ’90s, assumes that Black players operate with a lower cognitive function than players of other races.
NFL Ends Race-Norming
The U.S. District Court of Philadelphia uploaded a confidential proposed settlement between the NFL and former players on Wednesday that confirms the league’s plans to abolish race norming.
The NFL previously halted the use of race-norming in June as part of a$1 billion settlement with retirees Kevin Henry and Najeh Davenport, but details of the deal weren’t supposed to be released until it underwent review from a federal judge.
In fact, it currently seems as if someone in the court accidentally uploaded the document, as it was deleted hours later.
Among the details reaped from the settlement, it was revealed that the league plans to modify cognitive tests over the next year as part of a short-term change regarding how it verifies dementia-related brain injury claims. Previously, it used race-norming — the practice of assuming Black players have a lower cognitive function than players of other races — to test whether retirees seeking financial compensation had sustained brain injuries from the sport.
Black retirees who were denied access to compensation originally will also have their tests automatically re-evaluated over the course of the next year, if the settlement pushes through.
The NFL has additionally agreed to develop a long-term replacement system with the help of experts and players’ lawyers.
Still, the exact formula behind these new testing metrics, which will be designed as race-neutral per the agreement, is unknown. For example, retirees don’t know how the new changes will affect their scores or if they might potentially need to take additional tests before becoming eligible for compensation.
The Issue With Race-Norming
Race-norming was first adopted by the league back in the ’90s, and in theory, it was meant to help offer better treatment to Black retirees who had developed dementia from brain injuries related to football.
Essentially, the thought process was to take socioeconomic factors into account since Black people come from disadvantaged communities at higher rates; however, that quickly became a major issue since Black players were held to a higher standard of proof than players of other races.
For example, since the tests assumed Black people have less cognitive skill, Black retirees seeking claims needed to score lower to be granted compensation. That then led to many having their claims denied because they tested too high — even if they would have tested within the range to receive compensation had they been white.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The Washington Post) (ABC News)
Facebook Plans Name Change as Part of Rebrand
News of the alleged rebrand came the same day Facebook was fined nearly $70 million for breaching U.K. orders related to the company’s 2020 acquisition of Giphy, as well as the same day it reached a $14 million discrimination settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.
Facebook Allegedly Plans To Debut New Name
Facebook, Inc. is planning to announce a new company name next week, according to a Tuesday report from The Verge.
The rebrand would reportedly align with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision to shape the company into a full-fledged “metaverse” — AKA a virtual reality space where users can interact with one another in real-time.
The new name is currently unknown, but it would likely not affect the social media platform Facebook. Instead, the change would target its parent company, Facebook, Inc. — similar to how Alphabet became the parent company of Google following a 2015 restructure.
On Monday, Facebook said it is currently planning to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to help make its metaverse goal a reality.
Still, plans for the metaverse have not gone uncriticized, especially given the recent weeks of increased scrutiny regarding Facebook’s dominance over people’s daily lives. “Metaverse” was first coined in 1992 by American author Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash,” which depicts a corporate-owned virtual world.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even cited one user who referenced the novel, agreeing that Stephenson was right in his prediction of “a dystopian corporate dictatorship.”
Facebook To Pay Fine and Settlement
Also on Tuesday, regulators in the United Kingdom fined Facebook nearly $70 million for breaching orders related to its 2020 acquisition of Giphy.
While that’s only a fraction of the $400 million it paid to purchase Giphy, UK regulators warned that they could eventually order Facebook to sell off Giphy if they find proof the acquisition has damaged competition.
In the U.S., the Justice Department said the same day that Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle discrimination allegations brought by the agency under the Trump administration.
In December, the department accused the company of favoring foreign workers with temporary work visas over what it described as thousands of qualified U.S. workers.
“Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation’s federal civil rights laws, which prohibit discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices,” Kristen Clarke, an assistant attorney general at the department, said.
Notably, this settlement is the largest ever collected by the department’s Civil Rights Division.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (The New York Times)
SEC Releases Long-Awaited Report on January Memestock Frenzy, Pokes Hole in “Short Squeeze” Narrative
Among other findings, the SEC said hedge funds weren’t broadly damaged by January’s unprecedented trading event.
SEC Publishes Findings
The Securities and Exchange Commission released a long-awaited, 44-page report on Monday detailing its findings regarding this year’s “Memestock Frenzy,” which involved companies such as GameStop and AMC.
During the frenzy in late January, the share prices of those companies soared exponentially. According to one of the key narratives of the situation, smaller investors piled onto GameStop as a way to directly attack hedge funds that were actively betting against GameStop’s success and future. As CNBC reported at the time, those “hedge funds and other players had to rush in to cover their bets against the stock.”
What followed were reports that hedge funds had lost billions of dollars all at once. In fact, one notable hedge fund, Melvin Capital, received what many described as a nearly $3 billion bailout. Meanwhile, in June, it was reported that the London-based White Square Capital had shut down its main fund due to the losses it suffered in January.
However, now, the SEC has said there is no real evidence to support some of the key pillars of this narrative, including that hedge funds were substantially hurt in the long run.
“Staff believes that hedge funds broadly were not significantly affected by investments in GME and other meme stocks,” the agency said in its report. “Staff did not observe that any advisers to private funds and registered funds experienced liquidity issues or difficulties with counterparties.”
On the whole, hedge funds even saw a 1.2% increase in profits in January, according to data from the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite index.
The agency also noted that GameStop purchases to cover bets were just “a small fraction of overall buy volume,” adding that “GME share prices continued to be high after the direct effects of covering short positions would have waned.”
“The underlying motivation of such buy volume cannot be determined,” the agency concluded. “Perhaps it was motivated by the desire to maintain a short squeeze. Whether driven by [that] desire… or by belief in the fundamentals of GameStop, it was the positive sentiment, not the buying-to-cover, that sustained the weeks-long price appreciation of GameStop stock.”
SEC Not Currently Issuing Any Recommendation
The agency did not offer any policy recommendations with this report, though it did stress that a number of small-time investors who either initially bet against GameStop’s success or tried to ride the wave of gains saw significant losses.
Given that the number of investors trading GameStop rapidly jumped from 10,000 at the beginning of January to 900,000 by the end of the month, it’s not surprising that the FTC confirmed heavy losses for many.
With that in mind, the SEC aligned its next focus on commission-free trading apps and the way in which they promote potentially excessive trading. Notably, that includes apps such as Robinhood and Webull, both of which faced controversy during the frenzy for severely restricting users’ ability to trade so-called memestocks.
“Consideration should be given to whether game-like features and celebratory animations that are likely intended to create positive feedback from trading lead investors to trade more than they would otherwise,” the SEC said in its report.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler said Tuesday that by April, the agency could propose rules limiting how those apps make money from each trade, which is known as “payment for order flow.”