UPDATE: On Sunday, December 1, NBC, Fremantle, and Syco Entertainment, Simon Cowell's company that produces America's Got Talent, released a statement to People about the situation.
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” the statement read. “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.”
See the original story below.
Gabrielle Union is publicly speaking out after her unexpected and controversial exit from America's Got Talent.
On Wednesday the actor took to Twitter to express her gratitude to fans after admitting she was feeling shaken and saddened after her ousting as a judge on the popular competition series.
"So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone...you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever ❤," Union penned on Twitter.
Union also posted a family photo from Thanksgiving to Instagram, thanking everyone for their support. "Grateful ❤❤❤ Happy Thanksgiving good people. To all the friends and family that have my back and all the friends and family I've never met who show love and support when everyone is looking and when no one is looking...All praise, gratitude and thankfulness," she wrote.
News broke late last week that Union as well as fellow judge Julianne Hough would not be returning for another season of America's Got Talent: The Champions, which is set to premiere on January 6, 2020. The casting decision came amid a report, first by blog Love B Scott and then another report published by Variety on November 26, that alleged that Hough and Union had been cut after they "complained of toxic culture." Variety cited alleged racist incidents that Union urged producers to report to HR, according to insiders familiar with the show. The report also claims both Union and Hough "received excessive notes on their physical appearance" with Union being told her hair was “too black” for the show.
In another follow-up report published by Vulture, sources alleged that Union was described as "difficult" by fellow judge and show producer Simon Cowell as well as other producers. The report also claimed that Cowell asked Union not to take her complaints to NBC but instead address them with him personally—like her issue with Cowell continuously smoking indoors. Union is allergic to cigarette smoke, and California law states employers can't allow smoking in enclosed workspaces, but despite her complaints, Union was told "no one could stop Cowell from smoking and that previous attempts by a fire marshal and NBC executives had been unsuccessful." Vulture also confirmed that Union originally had a three-year contract with AGT.
The actor did not provide comment for Variety's or Vulture's report (and Hough's comment to Variety denied any tension with NBC), so Union's tweet seems to be her first acknowledgment of the situation. Her husband, Dwayne Wade, also came to Union's defense, seemingly confirming in a series of social media posts that Union was fired for speaking up at NBC.
"'Men lie, Women lie, numbers don’t' Over this past year I’ve been approached by many people saying that my wife @itsgabrielleu is the main reason they’ve started watching #AGT or that they love her insight and sincerity on the show," Wade wrote on Twitter, continuing, "So when i got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!? I am still waiting on a good answer to that question. But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she’s an advocate for our community and culture."
The athlete went on to praise his wife for her actions.
"As proud as i were of her being selected as a judge on #AGT—I am even more proud of her standing up for what she stands for and that’s US," he wrote, adding, "So 🥂 to you @itsgabrielleu on not losing sight of the lessons we’ve talked about teaching our daughter and for kicking ass while you were on that platform. Number 1 judge on one of the biggest shows in the world‼️"
Variety also noted that while the show has seen an overall ratings decline, its "social media presence has doubled" since Union and Hough replaced longtime hosts Mel B and Heidi Klum. And of those social media impressions, "half engaged directly with Union," meaning the 47-year-old was effectively "the most popular judge" on the reality show.
Following Variety's report, a spokesperson for NBC and Fremantle provided a statement to People about the claims, saying, "America's Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host lineup has been regularly refreshed over the years, and that is one of the reasons for AGT's enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously."
Several celebrities, including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Holly Robinson Peete, as well as fans of AGT and Union's, have rallied around the actor since the news broke.
"It really meant a lot to have a black woman stand up for us, and it's truly made me reexamine if I'm doing enough in standing up for racial injustice even when it doesn't involve me personally," one fan wrote.
"I’m just catching up on this. This is terrible. You should not be penalized for trying to have a workplace that honors the rule of law in the workplace," Oscar-winning actor Patricia Arquette tweeted.
"TO THE UNION! ❤️❤️❤️," Lin-Manuel Miranda chimed in.
Ellen Pompeo also issued searing messages on Twitter against NBC, pledging her support to Union and encouraging other women, especially white women, to fight for their female colleagues.
“It’s unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it…has not changed their practices or culture. I support @itsgabrielleu commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage,” the Grey's Anatomy star penned on social media, referring to the ousted Today show hosted after allegations of sexual misconduct.
“This is a teaching moment..It’s important..white girls I’m talking to you..whether you truly understand what racial injustice is or not..that you stand with your sisters on the front lines. Don’t cut side deals & don’t not get involved because it isn’t your issue..because it is,” she continued. "Workplace cultures will continue to be toxic until there is unity and solidarity among all women. If you go for self in these moments you undermine the work we are out here trying to do. Obviously this network feels like they can operate like this and it’s okay.”
Without revealing specifics, Pompeo also hinted at problems within her own show's network, ABC, but revealed that network execs were sure to address wrongdoings.
“Also I feel important to mention our problems on the Greys set and every set has them…some kind of issue …there’s lots of people in a workplace.. point is… exec producers and the NETWORK @abc cared enough to help us make change support is crucial,” she tweeted.
Many celebrities echoed Pompeo's sentiments, including singer Ariana Grande who tweeted, "Be better @nbc. we’re with you @itsgabrielleu. 🖤." And Will & Grace star Debra Messing, who has worked for NBC for several years, called out the network for its alleged behavior.
"This is disgusting behavior from a network that has been my professional home for decades. Yes, women become 'difficult,' when their insistence on a respectful and professional working environment, is ignored," Messing wrote, adding, "Addressing a hostile work environment is inconvenient when there is a huge money making machine that is involved. It is cowardice, greed, and protection of the status quo revealed. Being 'hands off,' is inexcusable and reflects a laissez faire attitude toward systemic racism and sexism."
Union appeared on the April 2019 digital cover of Glamour and spoke candidly about the pressure and pain of constantly having to stand up for herself and others amid social injustices. "Sometimes that is like, 'Yeah, let's fucking burn this motherfucker to the ground!'” she said. Other times, she added, “it can be crushing.”
Originally Appeared on Glamour