What CEOs Are Saying About Racial Violence in America

Cynthia Marshall leaning on a blue wall
Cynthia Marshall, CEO of Dallas Mavericks

Companies and CEOs around the country are denouncing racism and violence in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Here are portions of their public comments and letters to employees, edited for brevity and clarity.

Ben & Jerry’s

We must dismantle white supremacy. Silence is not an option. We have to speak out. We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization and repression because of their skin color, and with those who seek justice through protests across our country. We have to say his name: George Floyd. The murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated black bodies as the enemy from the beginning.

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

There is a big difference between seeing what’s wrong and doing what’s right. Let’s stop asking “why” and start asking “what.” What are we going to do? In this moment, we each must decide what we can do — individually and collectively — to drive change … meaningful, deliberate change. In this moment, there is no place for ambiguity. Putting this in writing is not enough. Effective by the end of this quarter, I am commissioning an Inclusion Advisory Board of internal and external leaders, which I will chair … with the longer term goal of inspiring us to be the most inclusive company in the world.

Jide Zeitlin, CEO of Tapestry, parent of Coach and others

We can replace our windows and handbags, but we cannot bring back George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and too many others. Each of these black lives matter. We want to convene a number of social justice, legal and corporate entities to formulate a longer-term plan for addressing systemic inequality — inequality in health, economic opportunity, public safety and other sectors. We hope to join with government, but events of this past week make it clear that we cannot wait.

Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy

Allyship with black communities is as much a moral imperative as a requirement of our business. We can’t fight for small businesses, if we don’t also fight for the empowerment of black business owners. We can’t hire and care for our black employees, if we don’t also protect black lives everywhere. We can’t be there for women employees, if we aren’t also standing up specifically for black women. We can’t advocate for parents, if we aren’t standing with black mothers and fathers who fear for their black children’s lives. Black Lives Matter is the civil rights movement of our time, because it addresses a fundamental inequality in our society: That black lives are too often undervalued.

Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks

We’re at a crossroads in America. As a nation, we have some decisions to make. Are we going to continue to perpetuate racial inequities and injustices, or are we going to hold the people accountable who killed an unarmed black man while he repeated, “I can’t breathe” and called out for his mother? Will we continue to require parents to have “the talk” with their black boys and girls because they live in a very different America than their non-black friends, or are we going to change so that “the talk” is one day no longer necessary? Will we brush it off as normal when we read about a woman in Central Park calling the cops on a black man, using the call as a weapon because she knows the end of that story is often tragic, or will we decide enough is enough and put an end to racism and discrimination?

Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Energy

Leadership is null and void in Minneapolis. They haven’t done the right thing up to this point, and they don’t know how to do the right thing. We have too many people who don’t know how to lead. We have laws, regulations and rules, but they are executed by people. And people have flaws. More work is needed, and we can only do that through honest and open dialogue.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

This is not something you can just leave behind when you log into work. The weight can be enormous, and so the question, of course, is what can we do, what should we do? I know it’s not enough to just have empathy for those impacted, for the communities experiencing this hate, firsthand, scared for their safety, and for their loved ones. It’s incumbent upon us to use our platforms, our resources, to drive systemic change. That’s the real challenge here. My ask to each of you is to come together. Ask a colleague how they are doing today. Give each other grace as they’re navigating unseen circumstances. Have empathy for those who are scared and uncertain, and join me and everyone on the senior leadership team, in advocating for change in our company, in our communities, and in society at large.

Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines

Collectively, I think business needs to work together to help make change in the country. Through our lobbying efforts and other issues we can work together to make a change as well. But it also includes banding together to make sure that we are lobbying our government to do what’s right, as a country, and we will do that.

Alan Weil, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs

In true American fashion, the health care sector uses much of its power to sustain its power. We fight to protect our entitlements, our favorable tax treatment, our “reimbursement rates” (which normal people call prices) and, ultimately, our incomes. It is not enough for health care institutions to stand against racism or with those who protest it. The test of the day is whether those institutions will use their power to fight racism. Will they cede wealth and power accumulated over decades to those who have been excluded?


To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our black members, employers and creators to speak up.

(Article written by Mitchell Schnurman)