Discovery, Inc. CEO David Zaslav has added his voice to the growing chorus of media and entertainment chiefs expressing grief over the deep racial chasm in the country and promising to use their platforms for change following the brutal police killing of George Floyd last week and subsequent surge of anger that’s rocked cities on both coasts and in between.
In a memo to staff obtained by Deadline, headed ‘We Stand Together,’ Zaslav called the tragic events in Minneapolis “an affront to our shared sense of decency, human dignity and basic human rights” and promosed to use the company’s “portfolio of channels, respected talent and powerful reach to tell critical stories and elevate the discussion.”
Starting Monday, Discovery will launch a global PSA that says: “Discovery’s mission is to understand and share the world around us. We will always stand for mutual respect, equality, and tolerance. Our hope is for justice and peace for all. #BlackLivesMatter.”
Zaslav also said he will be working with the company’s executive team to develope a programming strategy “that can help bring more understanding and debate around some of the core issues at the heart of systemic racism in the United States.”
And Discovery will support grassroots organizations with philanthropy, employee impact initiatives and career opportunities through partner groups, including donating to several social justice organizations as part of its social initiative, RISE: Reducing Inequality and Supporting Empowerment, and will include an employee-matching component.
Discovery joins companies from Walt Disney to Netflix, Amazon, WarnerMedia, Sony, and others that have spoken out against racial injustice in a stream of corporate statements and promises of help that started over the weekend.
David Zaslav complete memo:
We are living through particularly difficult times. The senseless murder of George Floyd, the pain and despair in the Black community, and the rage across so many cities over the weekend is deeply painful. The anguish is real and I know that, like Pam and me, so many of you across the Discovery Family are feeling it too.
The tragic events in Minneapolis are an affront to our shared sense of decency, human dignity and basic human rights.
For me personally, I have been reflecting on my most vivid memories as a child. In 1968, as an eight-year-old, I woke up twice that year to see my parents’ heartbreak at the breakfast table, a sadness I’d never seen before. Two of our family heroes had been gunned down – first Martin Luther King, Jr., then Bobby Kennedy just weeks later – and along with them, it felt like our country’s ideals and sense of hope. My parents struggled to explain what was happening in America, and how we would get through the trauma of those days. The assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy had a profound and lasting impact on me. It is hard to fathom and unimaginable that 52 years later we have still not succeeded in righting the wrongs of our history and realizing the positive change MLK lost his life for.
I find myself today struggling for the right words.
It is inexplicable that our country is unable to come together to solve the stubborn bigotry that led to the murder of George Floyd, and haunts so many of our friends, colleagues and fellow citizens on a daily basis. Turning on each other, more divisive language and hurting innocents are not the answers.
What I do know is that Discovery has an important role to play. We have a voice and we have influence. As Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.” I believe we are doing important work here, and in our most humble moments, Discovery can uplift the dignity and understanding of all peoples, all cultures, and all creatures that inhabit our glorious Planet Earth.
It is one of our core values: always do the right thing. Now more so than ever. We have always stood for equal treatment, inclusion and mutual respect, and I want to be crystal clear today: Discovery also stands resolutely against any discrimination, violence or social injustice targeting any person. The racism that led to the death of George Floyd is anathema to everything we stand for as an organization.
As one part of the solution, we can do what we do best. We can use our portfolio of channels, respected talent and powerful reach to tell critical stories and elevate the discussion.
Starting today, we will reach the world with a PSA to air across our networks everywhere that says: “Discovery’s mission is to understand and share the world around us. We will always stand for mutual respect, equality, and tolerance. Our hope is for justice and peace for all. #BlackLivesMatter”
In addition, I will be working with Kathleen, Nancy and their teams in the coming days to develop a programming strategy that can help bring more understanding and debate around some of the core issues at the heart of systemic racism in the United States.
We can also support organizations doing critical work on the ground through our philanthropy, employee impact initiatives and more career opportunities through partner groups like the Emma Bowen Foundation. To support these efforts, the company will be donating to several social justice organizations as part of our social good initiative RISE: Reducing Inequality and Supporting Empowerment, and will include an employee-matching component. We welcome your input regarding particular organizations where you think our contributions could have the greatest impact. Discovery’s Multicultural Alliance together with our entire Employee Resource community will host a moment of silence this week. Please check Workplace for details.
Of course, we will continue to lead this company with the attributes that make our culture so strong and vibrant—fair treatment, mutual respect, inclusion, and a positive, diverse, dynamic, energetic work environment.
But we want to do more. We must do more. Our community and country need us to do more… and we need your help. Just like how we have approached our response to the pandemic, Adria, myself and the entire senior leadership of this company want to hear from you. We don’t have all the answers. We need to listen, learn and talk. We need more ideas and new ways to stimulate the discourse. We need innovative ways to create content and elevate stories that matter. Please reach out to us with any thoughts or suggestions about what we can do collectively as a company or to potentially help you as an individual.
Finally, to bring some needed perspective during these challenging times, I encourage you to take a look at a discussion guide from our special collaboration with Steven Spielberg, “Why We Hate,” that helps illuminate some of the intractable human elements in solving issues of racism and ignorance.
Discovery is at our very best when bringing the world a little closer together. We do this with humility and empathy in every way we can. It is an honor to be on the same team as you.
Please know that your health, safety and mental wellbeing are the number one priorities at Discovery. No matter what the challenge, or how hard the conversation, we are here for you – with resources, with support, and a safe space to exchange ideas, thoughts and dialogue. Our employee assistance program is available 24/7 for all employees around the world needing support at this time.
Hope you are well… let me know what you are thinking and will keep you updated.