t-mobile super bowl ad equal pay

Why Are People So Upset Over This T-Mobile Super Bowl Commercial Advocating Equality?

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During yesterday’s Super Bowl, T-Mobile dedicated their ad time to the issue of equality. In their commercial, titled “#LittleOnes,” Kerry Washington gives a voice-over pep talk to a group of babies.

As a baby-friendly Nirvana cover plays, the camera pans over the babies and Washington tells them, “Welcome to the world, little ones. Yeah, it’s a lot to take in. But you come with open minds and the instinct that we are equal.”

She continues, “Some people may see your differences and be threatened by them. But you are unstoppable. You’ll love who you want. You’ll demand fair and equal pay. You will not allow where you come from to dictate where you’re going. You will be heard, not dismissed, you will be connected, not alone. Change starts now.” At the end, the words “Are you with us?” appear on the screen.

T-Mobile’s president, John Legere released a statement saying the company originally had a different ad planed, but that when they “took a step back,” they saw that “something remarkable is happening right now. Change is in the air. And, this moment in history calls for something different. Something more impactful. Something more meaningful.”

While I imagine most of us around here were into the combination of Kerry Washington, cute babies, and a demand for equality, a lot of viewers were angered by the ad. Twitter is full of boycott declarations (I wonder how many of those people are actually T-Mobile customers to start with), and criticism over the “political” message being pushed. A lot of football fans are angry that T-Mobile is bringing politics into sports, seeing as it is, as one Twitter user put it, “one area where Americans can come together.”

These people really don’t see the irony in claiming that stating a desire for equality is getting in the way of their “coming together,” do they?

This isn’t the first time T-Mobile has gotten political. They’ve done heavy pushes for net neutrality, and Legere himself has shown public support for LGBTQIA issues and Black Lives Matter. He’s also gotten into some Twitter fights with Donald Trump. T-Mobile reportedly places a lot of importance on diversity and inclusivity within the company.

But issues like equal pay for women and people of color should not be political. They shouldn’t be partisan. Legere, in fact, is a self-described Republican, and T-Mobile generally makes more contributions to Republican political campaigns than to Democrats. So why is it that so many people see a commercial advocating wage parity and human decency and immediately think “those are liberal issues”?

Nick Drake, the company’s executive vice president of marketing and experience doesn’t think the commercial should be viewed as political, let alone liberal. He told USA Today, “This is not a political message in any way. This is a national message. … (But) I think if you’re going to put out a strong message, you’re always going to open yourselves to some criticism.”

(image: screen cap)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.