UPDATED: 11:15 a.m., December 24, 2014
After more than a week of pressure from activists online, the National Basketball Association announced that it will join dozens of companies in pulling their ads from VH1’s controversial new reality show “Sorority Sisters.”
The NBA made the announcement in a tweet:
The effort to pressure advertisers has been spearheaded by black Americans, many of them members of the Greek organizations featured in the show, who are angry about its depiction of black women.
VH1 said in a statement to the Post last week (below) that it stands behind the program and will honor advertisers’ requests to move their ad buys.
We’ve reached out to a spokesperson about the NBA news and will update this post when we get a response.
Now, after pressure from the show’s critics, who say it portrays black Greek life in a negative light, some advertisers are reconsidering airing ads on the network.
Carmex announced that it would pull its ads from the network until VH1 cancels the program.
And Hallmark said it has no plans to advertise during future episodes of the show.
A spokeswoman for Hallmark confirmed that the decision was made in response to public opposition to the show. The company, Linda Odell said in an e-mail, will not advertise during the show “because of consumer reaction to the program.”
Update: 3:50 p.m.: Several other advertisers including Honda, Crayola, and JBL, a subsidiary of Harman International, have also said they are pulling their ads from the show. State Farm has responded to inquiries saying that they do not air commercials during Sorority Sisters.
“Sorority Sisters” chronicles the lives of nine Atlanta area women who belong to black sororities. And it became the target of protests and anger before it even aired. Reception to the show’s trailer, which was released in June, was so negative that it was pulled off the Internet.
The first episode — full of the sort of name-calling, fighting and vaguely manufactured drama we’ve come to expect from this strain of reality television — only fanned the flames of outrage.
Opponents of the show (official hashtag: #BoycottSororitySisters) began devising a strategy to pressure advertisers to steer clear of the program when VH1 made the surprise announcement last week that “Sorority Sisters” would premier just a few days later.
The network went ahead with the program despite calls from members of black Greek organizations to drop production plans.
“A lot of [Black Greek Letter Organization] members were angry that their initial petition didn’t work, and that VH1 was trying to sneak the show into their lineup without much notice,” Lawrence Ross, who helped launched the boycott efforts, wrote in an e-mail to The Post.
He noted that he “created a social media strategy that targeted the brands who are supporting the show, either explicitly through direct ads, or implicitly, as part of an ad block buy.I was sure that none of them would want to be part of a show that denigrated close to one million African American fraternities and sororities.”
In an emailed statement, VH1 said that the premier was seen by 1.3 million people and it was the number one non-sports cable program in that time period among women ages 18 to 49.
“There are currently no plans to change the series and it seems to be connecting with its audience,” the network said through a spokeswoman.
“Due to the confidential nature of our agreements with our advertising partners, we never speak to specifics about clients and their media plans,” she added.
“But we do enjoy successful, long-term partnerships with our advertisers and are happy to honor any requests to move spots to other parts of our schedule.”
According to Ross, Ava DuVernay, the Golden Globe-nominated director of “Selma” and an honorary member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, has asked that “Selma” ads be pulled from the broadcast as well.
“The show is a gross representation of African American fraternal life,” said Ross, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. “It makes a mockery of the association, and the work, that these organizations have done to date. And it’s intentional. The producers of this show made choices as to the types of people they wanted to represent these sororities, and as a result, they went for the lowest common denominator.
“That is a choice, and it is a choice that says that they don’t respect us, and they certainly don’t respect African American women.” The petition calling on VH1 to dump “Sorority Sisters” has garnered more than 67,000 signatures.
The show’s second episode is scheduled to air Monday.
[This post has been updated.]