AT&T's CEO has placed himself right in the the Black Lives Matter debate in the US, a move which was backed up by T-Mobile's CEO on Friday.
Video of AT&T's Randall Stephenson talking at the operator's Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) was posted by an attendee on September 24. In it, Stephenson talked extensively on the topic of racial tension in the US and how to start a discussion about it at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).
Watch the full video below:
"Racial tension is ripping apart the very fabric of our community right now," Stephenson told the crowd.
He explained that how he hadn't been full cognizant of the impact of the issue, until a close friend, an African American doctor and military veteran, Chris, talked to him about it.
"If two very close friends of different races don't talk openly about this issue... how do we expect to find common ground and solutions for what's a really serious, serious problem?" Stephenson asked the crowd to cheers and applause.
"When a person's struggling with what's been broadcast on our airwaves says 'black lives matter,' we should not say all lives matter'," the CEO told the crowd.
For context, if you live outside the US, the Black Lives Matter movement started in 2013 after a Florida man,George Zimmerman, was acquitted for shooting Trayvon Martin under that state's "Stand your ground" laws. It became bigger after police shootings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and lately Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, N.C. It has become a hot-button issue in the already fractious US presidential election this year. (See Clinton Tech Plan Draws Sharp Contrast to Trump's Thinking and Trump's Telecom Policy? Who Knows?)
Stephenson talked of how proud he was that the company's employees are already very diverse but said more could be done. "If this is a dialogue that is going to happen at AT&T, I feel it probably ought to start with me," Stephenson said.
T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere backed up Stephenson Friday, which is definitely a first, tweeting in response to a question on the CEO's speech:
@saschasegan Love what Randall said. Very important topic that should be spoken about by all.— John Legere (@JohnLegere) September 30, 2016
In fact, this election has been much more visibly political for most of the major mobile service providers in the US than is usual. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Marcello Claure has gone on record to say that Republican Donald Trump is "too risky" to be president, and has held a fundraiser for Democrat Hillary Clinton in Miami Beach, Fla.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading