A Controversial Decision
When the news broke that America's Got Talent was not renewing the contracts of judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough, fans on social media were up in arms. While Hough claimed that there was no bad blood, reports revealed that Union was criticized for appearing "too black" and that she had spoken out against a racist joke made by guest judge Jay Leno.
Following the backlash, NBC released a statement addressing the situation:
"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate."
A Statement From Time's Up
Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up Now, explained that Union's firing was a symptom of a larger issue.
"Gabrielle Union’s experience at America’s Got Talent is exemplary of the double bind that black women face at work. Not only did Union reportedly endure and witness racist and inappropriate behavior – including racially-insensitive comments and excessive criticism about her physical appearance – but it also appears she was punished for speaking out: the company labeled her as ‘difficult’ before ousting her from the show altogether."
A Pattern At NBCUniversal
Tchen continued, explaining that Union's troubles were indicative of an insidious problem at NBCUniversal.
"Union’s story is deeply troubling on its own, but her experience is particularly problematic because it follows a pattern of NBCUniversal protecting the careers of powerful men at the expense of women who speak out.
Union’s experience shows that NBCUniversal still has a lot of work to do to change its culture so discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are no longer tolerated at the company. Building a culture of safety and equity requires continuous, intentional work sustained over a long period of time – even when a company isn’t in the throes of a crisis."
Can This System Be Fixed?
Ultimately, Tchen explains that this issue spreads beyond NBC, but that NBC has a responsibility to deal with what happens under their roof.
"Ensuring people of all kinds are respected and supported at work is critical for any company, but especially a media company like NBC that has such an outsized influence in our culture and in our lives."
It's safe to say that this drama is far from over, and Union is standing up for what she thinks is right.