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Tech CEOs decry racial injustice amid George Floyd protests

Melody Hahm
West Coast Correspondent

Americans across at least 75 different cities took to the streets to protest the death of Black men and women at the hands of police.

Coupled with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black communities, the killings of Breonna Taylor on May 13 and George Floyd on May 25 have sparked six consecutive days of protests. What started as peaceful demonstrations descended into violent altercations, fires and looting over the weekend as police officers deployed tear gas and rubber bullets. Twenty-six governors called in the National Guard and at least 45 million Americans were under curfew Sunday evening.

Amid the chaos, companies and their executives have been pressured to stand up and speak out against systemic racism and police brutality, and show allyship for their Black colleagues. Salesforce, Twitter and Apple were among the first to issue public statements. Overall, chief executives struck an empathetic tone, many acknowledged the power and reach of their platforms and some committed to donating money to nonprofits focused on racial injustice in addition to providing rhetorical support.

A child wears a protective mask at a makeshift memorial honoring George Floyd, at the spot where he was taken into custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Plug, a site that curates and analyzes Black tech trends, has kept a comprehensive timeline of executives and their statements, along with the companies’ diversity reports.

May 28

On Thursday afternoon, Salesforce (CRM) was the first major tech company to show solidarity with the Black community. “Now more than ever we must support one another as allies and speak up for justice and equality,” reads the statement via Twitter. CEO Marc Benioff tweeted condolences from his personal account on May 26, a day after Floyd was murdered.

By Thursday evening, Twitter (TWTR) published a statement, changed its Twitter bio to #BlackLivesMatter and its bird avatar transformed from blue to black. Pager Duty (PD) announced donations to Black Lives Matter and the NAACP in a tweet. Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, who has been an outspoken advocate for social issues, tweeted: “Minneapolis is grieving for a reason...Justice is how we heal.” The company will be making donations to nonprofits like The Equal Justice Initiative, and will be offering two-for-one matching on all employee donations in June.

May 29

A little after midnight Friday, Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos shared a Medium post titled “Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is...A Lot,” by writer Shenequa Golding on Instagram. Two days later, the company posted a statement on Twitter.

Box (BOX) CEO Aaron Levie pledged $500,000 of his personal wealth to support an unspecified number of nonprofits that fight racial injustice. The next day, the cloud computing business released an official statement committing to support nonprofit organizations through its charitable arm, box.org.

Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann shared a tweet from the ACLU calling for justice for Floyd, which the company then quote-tweeted. “We stand for trust, safety, & justice in our communities, marching for change, & standing with the black-owned restaurants, business, workers, & neighbors who are the heart of our communities & the heart of Postmates. Be heard, but keep safe.”

Slack (WORK) CEO shared his thoughts in a Twitter thread, acknowledging that he was “struggling a bit with what to say” and promised to “amplify Black voices and also to condemn not just the violence, but the indifference, the lack of compassion, the deflection and excuses” when the company reports quarterly financial results after the bell Thursday.

Butterfield, who is engaged to Away chief creative officer Jen Rubio, announced they are giving $700,000 to 10 organizations, including The Bail Project, Policing Equity, Campaign Zero, Until Freedom and The Loveland Foundation. The couple is also allocating $300,000 to match donations to the nonprofits.

YouTube (GOOG, GOOGL) pledged $1 million “in support of efforts to address social injustice.”

At Microsoft’s (MSFT) monthly town hall on May 28, CEO Satya Nadella “shared his thoughts on showing empathy and compassion,” according to the company’s head of human resources Kathleen Hogan. She shared his remarks in a LinkedIn post the following day. The company is also sharing the stories and perspectives of Black employees.

May 30

Spotify shared a message of unity on Saturday morning — “Now is not the time for silence. We will continue to use the power of our platform to amplify Black voices so they are heard.”

T-Mobile (TMUS) tweeted a statement on Saturday: “We are with you. We are for you. We all must do better.”

“To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up,” Netflix (NFLX) said on Twitter.

Creator-driven TikTok echoed a similar sentiment, saying the company is “proud to provide a platform where #blackivesmatter and #georgefloyd generate powerful and important content with over 1 billion views.”

In a statement, Amazon’s Twitch said: “We’re asking you to come together and stand up for Black lives whether it’s through your time, treasure, or talent. Don’t let today’s injustice stop us from creating a better tomorrow for our community.”

Financial services company Square (SQ), which is also led by Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey, tweeted out the #BlackLivesMatter fist symbol inside the Square logo.

Zoom (ZM) posted a message that CEO Eric Yuan shared with employees, in which he promises to work with the leadership team and the company’s new chief diversity officer...and “assess how best to activate the power of philanthropy.”

Hulu (DIS) issued a pithy, straightforward statement: “We support Black lives. Today, and every day. You are seen. You are heard. And we are with you.”

May 31

Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai shared a screenshot of U.S. Google and YouTube homepages, with a banner at the bottom that says: “We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.” By Monday morning, the message was gone.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted — and the company retweeted: “Black lives matter. We stand with those using their voices and peacefully calling for justice, fairness and racial equality.”

Sunday afternoon, AT&T (T) tweeted that the “events of the past few days underscore the violence and racism faced by black people in America today.”

Uber (UBER) CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced a $1 million donation to Equal Justice Initiative and The Center for Policing Equity. Lyft (LYFT) CEO Logan Green announced the company’s $500,000 commitment in ride credit to various organizations that support communities of color.

Instagram (FB) announced that its parent company is pledging $10 million to “efforts committed to ending racial injustice.” The social media network also encouraged users to #ShareBlackStories.

Evan Spiegel, the CEO of fellow social media juggernaut Snap (SNAP), sent a note to employees calling for a commission on reparations and comprehensive tax reform, according to reporting from The Information.

June 1

In a webcast Monday afternoon, Verizon (VZ) CEO Hans Vestberg announced the company’s $10 million commitment to organizations like the National Urban League and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights.

Tesla (TSLA) and CEO Elon Musk is notably missing from the conversation. Musk is also the CEO of SpaceX, which became the first private company to launch a crew into space on Saturday.

Disclosure: Verizon is the parent company of Yahoo Finance.

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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