Everyone Who’s Lost Their Job During the Racism Reckoning of 2020
From The New York Times and CrossFit to the L.A. Galaxy and ‘Vanderpump Rules,’ people are losing their jobs over racist or racially insensitive behavior. Here are all of them.
In the days after George Floyd’s tragic death, protests erupted in over 350 American cities, the National Guard was deployed to 23 states, and more than 14 metro areas implemented curfews. For more than two weeks, protesters have taken to the streets, sometimes several times per day, demanding justice for Floyd’s family, police defunding, and a comprehensive reimagination of public safety. But as the civil unrest played out in public, it has also migrated into the workplace.
In the past 15 days, workers at media institutions, sports franchises, TV shows and food chains, as well as online critics, have forced companies and corporations to confront charges of racism, overhaul their hiring practices, and interrogate how places from The New York Times and CrossFit to the grocery store Holy Land might find ways for reform. More than once, this has led to oustings and resignations.
Here are all of them so far. (This story will be updated as more developments follow.)
Person: Audrey Gelman
Job: Founder of The Wing
Date: June 11, 2020
Reason: After a virtual strike from staff, the founder of the millennial pink women’s co-working space, The Wing, stepped down Thursday. In recent months, the company had weathered several criticisms pointing to the disparities between its supposed ethos of inclusion, its overwhelmingly white membership, and the underpaid workers who ran the physical spaces, who were largely people of color. “In solidarity with so many of our colleagues—past, present, and in particular, the black and brown people without whom The Wing would not exist—as a united group of employees, we are participating in a virtual walkout beginning today,” staff wrote in a statement before their Thursday walkout. “I’m looking forward to spending a little time as a stay-at-home mom,” Gelman told The New York Times Thursday.
Person: Leandra Medine
Job: Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Man Repeller
Date: June 10, 2020
Reason: After publishing a blog post titled, “Where We Go From Here: A Message for the MR Community,” claiming the website “will not remain silent in the face of police brutality and white supremacy,” the Man Repeller founder faced criticism online for its lack of diversity and general outlook.
In a statement on Instagram Wednesday night, Cohen announced she would be “stepping back” from operations, but did not specify what exactly that would look like. “The team deserves a chance to show you what Man Repeller can be with me on the sidelines,” Cohen wrote, “so I’m going to step back and let them show you.”
Person: Greg Glassman
Job: Founder/CEO of CrossFit
Date: June 9, 2020
Reason: Last week, on a phone call with several CrossFit gym owners, the WOD designer Greg Glassman told a Minneapolis affiliate: “We’re not mourning for George Floyd—I don’t think me or any of my staff are. Can you tell me why I should mourn for him? Other than that it’s the ‘white’ thing to do—other than that, give me another reason.”
The conference call pushed several owners, who run largely autonomous businesses which license the CrossFit name and method, to disaffiliate from the company. On Tuesday night, the company released a statement from Glassman announcing he had “decided to retire.”
Person: Wendy Melsey
Job: Host of The Weekly with Wendy Mesley on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Date: June 9, 2020
Reason: In preparation for an episode on Black Lives Matter and racism coverage in the media, Mesley “used a word that should never be used.” In a statement given to the podcast Canadaland, Mesley elaborated: “In the context of an editorial discussion about current issues regarding race, I used a word that should never be used... It was not aimed at anyone, I was quoting a journalist we were intending to interview on a panel discussion about coverage of racial inequality.”
A CBC spokesperson told Canadaland that Mesley had been removed from her position, pending an investigation into the incident. Mesley reportedly apologized to her co-workers “immediately,” adding, “I was careless with my language and wrong to say it. Regardless of my intention, I hurt people and for that I am very sorry. I am also deeply ashamed.”
People: Stassi Schroeder, Kristen Doute, Max Boyens, and Brett Caprioni
Job: Vanderpump Rules cast members
Date: June 9, 2020
Reason: A spokesperson for Bravo told Variety that Schroeder and Doute, along with two new cast members, Boyens and Caprioni, would not be returning to the reality series following racist incidents. Last week, fellow cast member Faith Stowers claimed in an Instagram Live that, in 2018, Schroeder and Doute had called the police on her following the publication of a Daily Mail article about a black woman wanted for robbery. Schroeder and Doute allegedly told authorities that Stowers was the wanted woman, though the person pictured did not resemble her at all.
Boyens and Caprioni will also not return to the show after fans unearthed racist tweets after the new season premiered in January. The pair initially apologized, but after outlets revisited the incident last week, both were let go.
Person: Adam Rapoport
Job: Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appétit
Date: June 8, 2020
Reason: On June 6, freelance food writer Illyanna Maisonet shared screenshots of Instagram DMs with Rapoport about why the magazine passed on a pitch about Puerto Rican cuisine. Three days later, fellow food writer Tammie Teclemariam tweeted a photo of Rapoport in Puerto Rican brown face. The photo, taken at a costume party in 2013, with the caption, “I do not know why Adam Rapoport simply doesn’t write about Puerto Rican food for @bonAppétit himself!!!” had come from Rapoport’s wife’s Instagram, where she called him “papi” and used the Puerto Rican hashtag #boricua, which refers to the name given to the island by its indigenous people, the Taino.
In the hours after the picture emerged, other Bon Appétit writers and former staff posted about discrimination at the magazine. Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant editor who frequently stars in Bon Appétit’s popular test kitchen videos, claimed in an Instagram story that, while white editors are paid for their appearances, people of color are not. The statement prompted white Bon Appétit editors to announce a boycott of the videos until the payment structure was reformed. Later that afternoon, Rapoport announced on Instagram that he would be stepping down as EIC to “reflect on the work that I need to do as a human being and to allow Bon Appétit to get to a better place.”
Person: Christene Barberich
Job: Top Editor and Co-Founder of Refinery29
Date: June 8, 2020
Reason: After several Refinery29 writers and freelancers wrote on social media about discrimination at the Vice-owned fashion outlet, top editor Christene Barberich stepped down on Monday. One of the writers, Ashley C. Ford, wrote on Twitter, “I worked at Refinery29 for less than nine months due to a toxic company culture where white women’s egos ruled the near nonexistent editorial processes. One of the founders consistently confused myself and one of our full-time front desk associates & pay disparity was atrocious.”
Barberich announced her resignation in an Instagram post. “I’d like to start by saying that I’ve read and taken in the raw and personal accounts of Black women and women of color regarding their experiences inside our company at Refinery29,” she wrote in the caption. “And, what's clear from these experiences, is that R29 has to change. We have to do better, and that starts with making room. And, so I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter.”
Person: Hartley Sawyer
Job: Actor in The Flash
Date: June 8, 2020
Reason: Hartley Sawyer, who played Ralph Dibny, aka “Elongated Man,” on The CW series The Flash, was fired Monday after Twitter users found tweets making light of racism and sexual assault. Sawyer’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, in 2012 he allegedly wrote, “The only thing keeping me from doing mildly racist tweets is the knowledge that Al Sharpton would never stop complaining about me.” Elsewhere, he wrote, somewhat incoherently, “Date rape myself so I don’t have to masturbate.”
A statement from The CW announced that Sawyer would not be returning for the show’s seventh season, adding “In regards to Mr. Sawyer’s posts on social media, we do not tolerate derogatory remarks that target any race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.” Sawyer apologized on Instagram: “I am ashamed I was capable of these really horrible attempts to get attention at that time. I regret them deeply.”
Person: James Bennet
Job: Editorial Page Editor of The New York Times
Date: June 7, 2020
Reason: Bennet resigned Sunday after the newspaper ran a widely criticized opinion piece from Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), encouraging the use of military force against protesters. The piece, which ran under the headline “Send In the Troops,” called for “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.” After it ran, dozens of journalists at The New York Times spoke out on social media, in a rare break from company policy, accusing the paper of lending a platform to fascism and endangering their black staff. Freelance writers posted screenshots of emails retracting their pieces; others donated their most recent checks to protest-related funds. In private conversations, Bennet later admitted that he had not even read the op-ed before it ran.
Person: Stan Wischnowski
Job: Top Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: June 6, 2020
Reason: On June 1, Philadelphia Inquirer architecture columnist Inga Saffron, a Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote a column asking, “Does the destruction of buildings matter when black Americans are being brazenly murdered in cold blood by police and vigilantes?” The column took a look at the future of Philadelphia architecture after the protests. It ran under the headline: “Buildings Matter, Too.” On June 3, 44 journalists of color signed an open letter to the paper’s management calling for change, and announcing a virtual “sick out” the following day in protest. The paper changed the headline and issued an apology, adding that the headlines are usually written by one editor and approved by a second. The headline had followed that process, they wrote, but did not specify who had approved it. On Saturday, top editor Stan Wischnowski tendered his resignation. (Disclosure: I worked at The Inquirer in 2017).
Person: Aleksandar Katai
Job: Midfielder on the L.A. Galaxy
Date: June 5, 2020
Reason: On June 3, the Los Angeles soccer team became aware that Tea Katai, the wife of midfielder Aleksandar Katai, had shared memes mocking the past week’s protests. In one post, she captioned a screenshot of police driving through protesters in New York last week with a Serbian phrase that translates to “kill the shits.” The second showed a protester holding a red Nike shoe box with the caption “Black Nikes Matter.”
Later that day, the team released a statement condemning the posts, and announcing a meeting to discuss Katai’s next steps. They decided to release him the morning after the meeting. “The decision, in that respect, was not a difficult one,” team president Chris Klein told the L.A. Times. “We have to hold to those values. This is not a soccer decision.”
Person: Andrew Alexander
Job: CEO of Second City
Date: June 5, 2020
Reason: Amid allegations that he had helped foster a culture of racism at the Chicago improv institution, Alexander posted a long letter to the theater’s website, announcing his resignation. “The Second City cannot begin to call itself anti-racist,” Alexander wrote. “That is one of the great failures of my life.” The outcry came after Second City tweeted in support of Black Lives Matter on May 31, prompting bemused and outraged posts from Black comedians who had endured discrimination while performing there. Among them: Space Force writer Aasia LaShay claimed that, after reporting an assault from a white cast member, they told her she “had to find a way to still perform with him,” prompting her to quit.
Person: Holy Land CEO’s daughter Lianne Wadi
Job: Catering Director at Holy Land
Date: June 4, 2020
Reason: In one of the wilder developments, the CEO of the Minneapolis food company, Holy Land, Majdi Wadi announced in a Facebook post on June 4 that the company had fired an employee for posting “racial slurs on social media.” The employee, it turned out, was Wadi’s daughter, Lianne Wadi. That morning, Lianne shared an apology on Instagram, saying she was “deeply mortified and disgusted by the comments,” which she made as “a teenager.” But as City Pages reported, internet sleuths uncovered tweets belonging to a Twitter account @LianneWadi, which has since been deleted, that disparaged Black, Jewish, fat, and gay people. It was also “pro-Hitler.”
In one tweet, the account wrote of her family, “My dad& workers: at least were not n*****s #classic.” In another, it tweeted, “Anything involving the n****r we call our president (;.” The same account also retweeted a user posing as Hitler, @TrueAdolphHitler,” who posted things like, “Holy shit. I just realized Blacks are just as bad as Jews. #GasEmAll.” The @LianneWadi account commented “I’ve always known!!”
People: Kimberly Ray & Barry Beck
Jobs: Radio hosts on Radio 95.1 FM, owned by iHeartMedia
Date: June 3, 2020
Reason: On Tuesday, June 2, the popular radio duo aired a discussion about a conflict between protesters and two counter-protesters that resulted in the assault of a local woman. In the conversation, Ray asked whether the attackers had acted “n-word-ish” and “n-word-ly.” She never actually said the “n-word,” but used the euphemism three times during the segment. “OK, let me ask you a question. Were they acting n-word-ish?” Ray asked at one point. They went on to question why they couldn’t use the word itself. “No one’s offended by that,” the pair determined. The following morning, Robert J. Morgan, iHeartMedia’s New York regional president, confirmed with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that the pair had been terminated.
Person: Craig Gore
Job: TV writer for NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime
Date: June 2, 2020
Reason: Gore, who also wrote for Chicago P.D. and S.W.A.T., was fired from Dick Wolf’s Law & Order spinoff series last week after threatening violence against protesters on social media. In one, Gore posted a picture of himself with a gun, captioned “Curfew…” on Facebook. In a comment below, he wrote, “Sunset is being looted two blocks from me,” referring to the famous L.A. boulevard, adding, “You think I won’t light motherfuckers up who are trying to fuck w/ my property I worked all my life for? Think again....”
In a statement on Tuesday, Wolf wrote, “I will not tolerate this conduct, especially during our hour of national grief. I am terminating Craig Gore immediately.”
Person: Grant Napear
Job: Sacramento Kings TV broadcaster for KTHK Sports 1140
Date: June 2, 2020
Reason: Napear, a 60-year-old radio broadcaster who co-hosted an AM radio show with former Kings player Doug Christie, resigned on Tuesday after posting an anti-protest tweet. The previous Sunday, DeMarcus Cousins, who played for the Kings for over six seasons before getting traded to New Orleans and whom Napear frequently criticized, tweeted at the host, “What’s your take on BLM?”
Napear responded: “Hey!!!! How are you? Thought you forgot about me. Haven’t heard from you in years. ALL LIVES MATTER...EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!” Cousins wrote back, “Lol as expected.” Former Kings forward Matt Barnes weighed in: “Would expect nothing less from a closet racist.” Napear later apologized, calling his comments “dumb.” He was fired Tuesday morning.
Person: Amy Cooper
Job: Franklin Templeton
Date: May 26, 2020
Reason: After Cooper went viral over a video in which she threatened to call the cops on Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper (no relation), and feign fear for her life, Cooper was fired from asset management firm Franklin Templeton. The company claimed in a statement on May 26 that they “do not tolerate racism of any kind.”