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HFPA Promises ‘Important Changes’ in Letter to Hollywood Execs

On Tuesday, the organization hired a diversity consultant

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that hands out the Golden Globe Awards, sent an apology letter to Hollywood execs promising impending change following outcry about the lack of Black members in its organization.

“In the spirit of transparency, we are reaching out to you to reassure you that important changes are underway at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” President Ali Sar wrote in the letter sent Wednesday. “We are also actively scheduling conversations with different communities, partners and advocacy groups to better educate our approach and create strong partnerships that will further serve our goals of transformational change. We know we have a lot to do, and we are committed to listening, learning and putting in the work.”

On Tuesday, the HFPA hired Dr. Shaun Harper, a leading expert on racial equity, Provost Professor in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, and founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, as the organization’s Strategic Diversity Advisor for the next five years.

The HFPA also retained Ropes & Gray as outside counsel “to conduct a comprehensive review of HFPA policies, assess our membership process, operations, governance, and review our alignment with industry best practices in various areas. The firm will also support the continued development of a confidential reporting system for investigating alleged violations of our ethical standards and code of conduct. The Ropes & Gray team will be led by Alex Rene, Morey Ward, and James Dowden. This team brings deep experience advising nonprofits on high-profile corporate governance, compliance, and ethics matters.”

Recent reports by the Los Angeles Times and New York Times noted that the 87-member group doesn’t have a single Black member, despite the push for diversity in Hollywood since the #OscarsSoWhite campaign launched in 2015. As far back as 2013, TheWrap reported that a Black applicant from the U.K. was rejected by an overwhelming vote. However, observers say the recent Black Lives Matter movement has made the focus on the lack of Black members impossible to ignore in 2021.

Just days before last month’s ceremony, the Time’s Up organization launched a #TimesUpGlobes protest campaign over the group’s lack of diversity. Hollywood bigwigs like Ava DuVernay, Judd Apatow and Shonda Rhimes joined in posting statements calling on the organization to make a commitment to diversify.

On Monday, TheWrap reported that at least three members sent separate emails to the board of directors accusing the HFPA’s current leadership of “incompetence” — as one put it — in handling the recent outcry over the group’s lack of Black members and what they view as lack of action to address the issues, four insiders told TheWrap.

Read the full letter below.

March 10, 2021
To Our Colleagues In The Entertainment Industry:

We have been partners with many of you for a long time and recognize and appreciate the significant role you play in the entertainment community. In the spirit of transparency, we are reaching out to you to reassure you that important changes are underway at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

We announced our commitment to transformational change over the weekend, as well as the hiring of two experienced, renowned advisors in Dr. Shaun Harper and Ropes & Gray to immediately assist with the implementation of our plan. We are also actively scheduling conversations with different communities, partners and advocacy groups to better educate our approach and create strong partnerships that will further serve our goals of transformational change. We know we have a lot to do, and we are committed to listening, learning and putting in the work.

We will continue to keep you in the loop on additional announcements to come and look forward to informing you on the work we are doing to reform our organization. We are taking this work on with urgency, but also thoughtfully and deliberately, to ensure long-term success and to restore confidence in our organization.

We greatly value the relationships we’ve built with you over the years and think of you all as partners. We are open to your thoughts, questions and concerns and would like to set a meeting with our leadership and the leaders of your agencies once our full plan is in place.

Thank you,

Ali Sar