On this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a growing problem on its hands. The anger of high-profile members over the lack of diversity at the Oscars.
It’s a groundswell that is setting up as the most incendiary monologue topic for returning host Chris Rock. From today’s social media declaration by Spike Lee, which follows a series of tweets earlier this weekend by Jada Pinkett Smith:
It’s amazing how far sports and music have moved ahead of Hollywood and television, but maybe we can learn from them too. Your honor, I present Exhibit A: The National Football League’s Rooney Rule. It’s named after the late Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mr. Rooney was also chairman of the league’s Diversity Committee.
The Rooney Rule states NFL teams MUST interview minority candidates for the positions of head coach and senior football executives before hires. Since being put in place before the 2006 season, African-American Hires have increased. Facebook And Pinterest have their own version of the Rooney Rule to hire minorities. Why can’t Hollywood do the Same? It’s worth the effort or it will be the same old hijinks. I do hope in my children’s lifetime things will change for the betterment of all Americans. A great diverse America.
Lee, who was honored in November with one of the Academy’s 2015 Governor awards, states he and his wife will not be attending this year’s Oscars as a form of protest. Among the most egregious oversights relating to this topic on the 2015 Academy Awards nominations slate are a lack of Best Picture nod for Straight Outta Compton and the absence of Idris Elba from the Actor in a Supporting Role for Beasts of No Nation.
ESPN columnist Ashley Fox recently noted that during the 10 years leading up to the establishment of the NFL’s Rooney Rule (1992-2002), a minority candidate was hired less than 10 percent of the time to fill a head coaching vacancy. Since 2003, that rate has risen to around 20 percent, reaching a peak of eight out of 32 head coaches in 2011.
Update (11:00 p.m.):
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has responded to the concerns of Lee, Pinkett Smith and others with a statement. It reads, in part:
This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.