Has Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ opening salvo in the war against wokism sent a shiver throughout corporate America?
Ron DeSantis’ signature last month on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill followed by Friday’s passage of legislation to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney’s special self-governance and taxation privileges granted by the state in 1967, sent the very clear message that powerful corporations will pay a price for trying to force woke agendas upon local governments.
Bloomberg reported on Friday that ExxonMobil Corp. has updated its policy on flags that may be flown outside its offices. The new guidance, obtained by Bloomberg, specifically prohibits the display of “external position flags,” which includes both the LGBTQ “rainbow” and Black Lives Matter flags.
Previously, the company has allowed the rainbow to be flown during June which is “Pride Month.”
While it will not allow the “commonly recognized” rainbow flag, Bloomberg reported, Exxon will allow “a flag representing an LGBTQ employees’ group that does not prominently feature Exxon’s corporate logo.”
The Bloomberg report was ambiguous about exactly when the Exxon policy was changed — but the public interest it’s generating in the context of the DeSantis dispute with Disney is undeniable.
News organizations from across the political spectrum, from Fox News to The New York Times, National Review and The Hill reported news of the Exxon decision as the latest twist in a long-running controversy over corporate involvement in political questions that the DeSantis-Disney clash brought to the forefront.
According to Bloomberg, an LGBT group in the company, Exxon’s PRIDE Houston Chapter, wrote in an email Thursday that “Corporate leadership took exception to a rainbow flag being flown at our facilities” last year.
“PRIDE was informed the justification was centered on the need for the corporation to maintain ‘neutrality.’”
According to an email reviewed by Bloomberg, this group has announced it will no longer “represent the company at the city’s June 25 Pride celebration.”
“It is difficult to reconcile how ExxonMobil recognizes the value of promoting our corporation as supportive of the LGBTQ+ community externally (e.g. advertisements, Pride parades, social media posts) but now believes it inappropriate to visibly show support for our LGBTQ+ employees at the workplace.
“Flying a Pride flag is one small way many corporations choose to visibly show their care, inclusion and support for LGBTQ+ employees,” the email argued. “These types of visible actions are even more impactful for many of our LGBTQ+ colleagues who aren’t out at work and may not feel comfortable participating in PRIDE events.”
ExxonMobil Vice President of Human Resources Tracey Gunnlaugsson responded to the email in a statement that read:
“The updated flag protocol is intended to clarify the use of the ExxonMobil branded company flag and not intended to diminish our commitment to diversity and support for employee resource groups. We’re committed to keeping an open, honest, and inclusive workplace for all of our employees, and we’re saddened that any employee would think otherwise.
“Diversity is not a stand-alone activity; it is embedded in our core values, our approach to how we develop talent, and the culture to which we aspire.”
Could it be that DeSantis’ decision to fight back against Disney’s foray into activism has sent a chill throughout corporate America, particularly among companies located in red states? It may be too early to tell, but Exxon’s decision to ban the display of rainbow and BLM flags outside its corporate offices was certainly encouraging.
There’s no denying that Disney’s activism hasn’t helped shareholder value. Its stock price closed at $118.27 per share on Friday, a 52-week low.
Shareholders certainly can’t be happy that a company whose mission is to provide family-friendly entertainment for children has shed nearly $50 billion in market capitalization since Disney’s management commenced its attack on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation.
“The stock’s market cap has declined by about $46.6 billion since March 1, just days before the company came out against the legislation,” the Washington Examiner reported Friday.
Moreover, a Trafalgar poll released earlier this month found presented respondents with this question: “News reports reveal Disney is focusing on creating content to expose young children to sexual ideas. Does this make you more or less likely to do business with Disney?”
Eleven percent responded “less likely” and a majority of 57.2 percent responded “much less likely.” Among Democrats, according to the poll. 48.2 percent responded “less likely” or “much less likely.”
Hell yeah: 68 percent of Americans, including nearly half of all Democrats, are “less likely to do business with Disney” following revelations about the company’s sexual politics. https://t.co/flC5b2b3TF pic.twitter.com/Sz1DOTc2Cm
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) April 12, 2022
Considering that a company’s first priority should be to maximize shareholder value, Disney’s needless stand against Florida’s anti-grooming legislation was a pretty stupid move.
The news about Exxon’s decision, coming the very week the Florida bill was signed into law, only amplifies the possibility the country is seeing something of a “DeSantis Effect” — a new, public willingness by conservative politicians to take on corporations attacking from the left.
When Major League Baseball made the arrogant decision to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta last year to protest Georgia’s new voter integrity law, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp held firm — to his everlasting credit — but was not in a position to strike back.
In the Florida case, DeSantis and Sunshine State Republicans not only held their ground, but have gone over on the offensive, and the rest of corporate America has to be taking notice.
Although it’s way too soon to declare victory in the culture war, it’s a win for conservatives.
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