Boycott Disney Calls Grow Over Bob Chapek's Refusal to Condemn 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Calls are mounting for a Disney boycott after the company's CEO Bob Chapek refused to publicly condemn Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Chapek is facing harsh scrutiny on social media after declaring in a memo that The Walt Disney Company "unequivocally" stands with its LGBTQ+ employees, but wouldn't directly condemn the controversial bill making its way through the Florida legislature.

"We are committed to creating a more inclusive company—and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do," Chapek said in an internal memo to staff on Monday.

Florida's new legislation, which is seen by many as discriminatory, was passed by the state's House last month.

The Republican-controlled Florida Senate is expected to vote as soon as Tuesday on the bill, which prohibits "classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity" in certain grade levels in schools.

Directly addressing Disney's silence on the bill, Chapek added in the staff memo: "I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of statement for a lack of support. We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there."

He also highlighted that Disney supports organizations that champion diversity and said in 2021, it provided "nearly $3 million to support the work of LGBTQ+ organizations."

As Disney is the owner of numerous properties in the state of Florida, including Disney World, many protestors have called on the company to speak out against the bill.

Bob Chapek
Bob Chapek Chairman of Parks, Experiences, and Products for the Walt Disney Company speaks during the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Dedication Ceremony at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 28, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the company has contributed to every sponsor and co-sponsor of the legislation and will continue to do so.

Last week, Disney heiress Abigail Disney, the grandniece of company founder Walt Disney, tweeted: "When laws are being passed that are this hateful and dripping with prejudice, there is no neutrality. Not saying anything is saying a lot. ⁦@WaltDisneyCo get a spine."

Now the hashtag #boycottdisney is gaining momentum on Twitter as several employees and artists associated with Disney have taken to the platform to criticize Chapek's response.

Officially called a law on "parental rights in education", the bill states: "Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

Benjamin Siemon, an animation writer at Disney, posted a video to say that this bill will essentially "hurt kids."

"[Disney is] starting to include more LGBT characters that let kids know that being gay is all right. But when they have donated to the sponsors and co-sponsors of the 'Don't Say Gay' bill and they have made no position against this bill, and they are going to continue donating to these politicians, they are essentially saying that this bill is OK," he said.

"This bill is going to hurt kids, and that's why I'm asking Disney to please take a position on the 'Don't Say Gay' bill and say that it's wrong and say that you're going to stop donating to the politicians that vote for it."

Meanwhile, many others have taken to Twitter with #boycottdisney including TV personality Scott Nevins who tweeted: "Well kids, it's time to #boycottDisney."

While actor Daniel Newman added: "#BoycottDisney trending. @Disney Literally all U had to do is say "Disney is AGAINST ALL forms of prejudice & inequality, including the #DontSayGayBill" & stop$. Heads of Disney (that I know Very well) need to correct this long floundering tone-deaf reply."

Author John Pavlovitz tweeted: "Bob Chapek is destroying Disney. #BoycottDisney."

Newsweek has reached out to the Walt Disney Company for comment.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis berated a reporter who asked him about the controversial sex education bill on Monday, saying it only applied to "pre-K through three [third grade], so 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds."