Disney hasn’t been shy about pushing a progressive agenda in its content.
ESPN has purged conservative voices and alienated millions of viewers with too much politicization, while “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” disappointed many fans with its overt feminist messaging.
But surprisingly, one topic appears to be too much of a third-rail issue for the company.
Disney subsidiary ABC has spiked an episode of the sitcom “Black-ish” because it dealt with the anti-American anthem protests that swept across the league in 2017.
NFL anthem protests became one of the most hotly debated topics in the country last year. An issue that was debated in media, on the street, in politics, and almost on an episode of Black-ish.
That is, before they decided it was too “political” to air.
The ABC sitcom which never shies away from covering controversial topics, reportedly did precisely that in late February.
According to Variety:
“ABC has indefinitely shelved a politically and socially themed episode of ‘Black-ish’ as a result of creative differences with showrunner Kenya Barris. The network has no plan at this time to air the episode or make it available through other forms of distribution…
‘One of the things that has always made ‘Black-ish’ so special is how it deftly examines delicate social issues in a way that simultaneously entertains and educates,’ an ABC spokesperson told Variety Friday. ‘However, on this episode there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.’”
In the episode, titled “Please, Baby, Please,” Anthony Anderson (Dre) has a dispute with his son over the NFL’s player-led anthem protests. According to Variety the anthem issue, more than any other issue in the episode, caused the show to get canceled:
“The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games.”
According to USA Today Sports, “Black-ish creator Kenya Barris told Variety the decision to pull the episode was mutual.
“ABC is obviously closely connected with ESPN, which has a multi-billion dollar deal with the NFL, so it makes sense that Disney, which owns both networks, would want to avoid a divisive conversation regarding a product it has poured a lot of money into over the years.”
“Black-ish” has dealt with touchy subjects like police shootings, but examining the politics of standing up for America is apparently a bridge too far.
The specific content of the episode will likely never be known, but it’s clear Disney didn’t want to further damage the relationship between ESPN and the NFL.
It’s a shame that kneeling for the National Anthem has become “heroic,” and criticizing those who do it has become “controversial.”