The Hypocrisy of Delta & Bank of America Pulling Public Theater Sponsorships Over Anti-Trump Artistic Expression

This morning it was reported that due to a "Trump-esque' production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in Central Park, Delta Airlines and Bank of America would be pulling their sponsorships of New York's Public Theater. 

The play centers on the fictionalized story of a powerful, popular Roman leader who is assassinated by senators who fear he is becoming a tyrant. 

For this summer's Public Theater production, director Oskar Eustis' design(see above) is more than obvious with its inspiration. And that is causing major issues with the Public's major donors. 

An out-of-context video clip of the death scene is shown here. 

In a statement, Delta Airlines said, 

"No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of Julius Caesar at this summer's Free Shakespeare in the Park does not reflect Delta Air Lines' values, their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste."

Bank of America followed suit with their statement, 

"The Public Theater chose to present Julius Caesar in such a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it."

Earlier in the day, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, "I wonder how much of this 'art' is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does 'art' become political speech & does that change things?"

While I don't think Junior's tweet is the direct reason why both companies pulled funding, it certainly helped expedite the process.

They might be just two companies, however, the loss of those funds for the Public are gigantic. Both companies combine for high six to seven figure donations and both companies logos are featured prominently on advertisements and publicity materials. Losing that money is a big deal. 

While I'm not surprised that two deep "Red State" based business are pulling funding of an assumed "Anti-Trump" designed play, there are hypocrisies that shouldn't be ignored. 

Photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp

Actress and blogger Erin Quill, quoted on her Facebook page that while Delta seems to take major issue with a Trump-inspired Julius Caesar, they didn't have an issue with an Obama-inspired production of the play they sponsored in 2012 at the Guthrie Theatre in MN (pictured right). 

Quill added in a statement to OnStage Blog, 

"Including reasonable facsimiles of current political figures is the responsibility of theater - both in its quest to stay relevant and in an attempt to remind people that 'this' has all been done before.

Withdrawal of support from Delta and Bank of America means that Art cannot speak to power without consequences. That there are limits to which we, as artists, can strive- and this is morally wrong.

Similar to the Cast of HAMILTON's 'Noble Call'- it is the responsibility of Artists to speak up. It is our burden and our gift to call attention to the hypocrisy and 'thus opposing, end it'."

The other hypocrisy is Delta cherry picking when they want to invoke their "values" as the reason to pull funding. I don't have their values memorized but I'm sure they don't endorse the violence of King Lear which they sponsored in 2014 at The Public or the gang violence and teen suicide of West Side Story and Romeo & Juliet which the Guthrie is producing later this year (Yes, they're doing both). 

Bank of America also displays a great amount of hypocrisy as well. Pulling funding over artistic expression seem to be directly contradictory of their mission statement to support the arts. 

On their partnership website they state the following under the headline "ARTS MATTER" : 

Bank of America believes the arts matter: they help economies thrive, help individuals connect with each other and across cultures, and educate and enrich societies. We support more than 2,000 visual and performing arts organizations worldwide that provide inspirational and educational sustenance, anchor communities, create jobs, complement school curricula, and generate substantial revenue for local businesses.

We believe the neighborhood playhouse can be just as important as the world class museum or orchestra in its value to the community, in the lives of its citizens, and in the education of its young people. On a global scale, the arts speak to us in a universal language that provides pathways to greater cultural understanding.

Apparently, Bank of America is being selective on what type of art "matters". 

In the wake of the Kathy Griffin scandal, many companies and entities are making snap reactions to silence or pull funding from anything that might seem anti-President Trump and that's a dangerous path to go down. 

As Erin Quill explained above, artistic expression cannot thrive when it's being given rules and guidelines for funding. Sponsorship of the arts cannot be based on what is "safe" and "tasteful" and what is not. Holding proverbial fiscal guns to the heads of artists is much more dangerous that a production of Julius Caesar. 

The show opens it week long run tonight.