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Thursday, March 26, 2020

World & Nation

Supreme Court Sides with Comcast in Discrimination Dispute Against Byron Allen By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
 In a decision issued online Monday, March 23, over entrepreneur and media mogul Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks in a discrimination lawsuit against Comcast, the Supreme Court’s justices have unanimously decided to send the case back to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The lower court will now determine whether or not is should reconsider Allen’s claims in his $20 billion suit. In an Op-Ed for BlackPressUSA.com, Maurita Coley, President and CEO of the Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council (MMTC) explains, “The lawsuit arose out of Comcast’s decision several years ago not to carry several Allen-owned television channels, such as Pets.TV and Recipe.TV. Comcast has argued its rejection of Allen’s channels was purely a business decision, reflecting what it viewed as the channels’ limited audience appeal. Allen then promptly filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast, alleging that the company’s refusal to contract with Allen’s company was racially motivated, in violation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. “District Court Judge Terry Hatter – a well-respected African American judge with an apparently strong record on civil rights  – dismissed the case three times, finding that Allen had not established a plausible argument that Comcast would have contracted with his company ‘but for’ Allen’s race. “Allen appealed to the 9th Circuit, which remanded Judge Hatter’s dismissal with a new guideline to the lower court that a plaintiff can state a viable claim under Section 1981 if discriminatory intent plays any role in a defendant’s decision not to contract, regardless of whether race discrimination was a “but for” cause of that decision. Comcast petitioned the Supreme Court to review the 9th

The Supreme Court’s justices have unanimously decided to send the case back to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Circuit’s decision, and the Supreme Court agreed.” The Supreme Court filing, Comcast Corp vs. NAAAOM, was the result of an appeal by Comcast of the 9th Circuit’s decision.

Comcast argued that the Section 1981 ban can only be interpreted as requiring “but for” causation. It argued that everyone must have “the same right” as white citizens “to make and enforce contracts.”

Comcast assured the justices that reasons that have nothing to do with race, such as a lack of bandwidth, and its decision to focus on news and sports content, were the basis of their decision not to carry ESN’s channels. Moreover, Comcast noted it had, for many years, carried numerous other African American-owned networks. ESN countered that Comcast’s position would prohibit a plaintiff who alleges that race was a motivating factor for the refusal to contract from conducting fact-finding discovery on the claim, no matter how strong the evidence of racism, unless the plaintiff could meet the stringent requirement of plausibly alleging that race was the ‘but-for’ cause of the refusal to contract. That, ESN reasonably insists, is an extremely high and difficult hurdle because “the defendant typically is the only party with access to evidence of the defendant’s motives.” On Monday, Comcast released the following statement, “We are pleased the Supreme Court unanimously restored certainty on the standard to bring and prove civil rights claims. The well-established framework that has protected civil rights for decades continues. The nation’s civil rights laws have not changed with this ruling; they remain the same as before the case was filed. “We now hope that on remand, the 9th Circuit will agree that the District Court properly applied the law in dismissing Mr. Allen’s case three separate times for failing to state any claim. “We are proud of our record on diversity and will not rest on this record. We will continue to look for ways to add even more innovative and diverse programming that appeals to our diverse viewership and continue our diversity and inclusion efforts across the company.” NNPA attempted to contact Byron Allen’s attorneys for a statement. However, at the time of this writing, neither Allen nor his attorneys have provided any comments.

Business Acumen and Assuredness

Enable Corporate America to Overcome Insurmountable Odds

Bernie Fowler (Courtesy Photo)

By Kimberly Hayes Taylor NNPA Newswire Contributor As an automotive C-suite level executive, Bennie Fowler became a business leader to count on when corporations in crisis were hemorrhaging money and losing loyal customers because of questionable quality. During the 2008 economic crisis, Fowler helped lead Ford Motor Company’s turnaround to profitability when the company was losing billions of dollars per year and facing bankruptcy. As chief operating officer, he had proven his abilities while navigating a successful upswing at the $10 billion British Jaguar & Land Rover operation when it faced stalled production, poor product quality, and was projected to lose $250 million. Fowler believes his business acumen and the assuredness he needed to beat insurmountable odds was sparked by his humble beginnings of selling baskets of eggs doorto-door and working as a janitor while growing up in Augusta, Georgia. It was this early introduction to the work world that motivated him to perform at a high level in education followed by the lessons learned in a variety of career assignments. Now, a supply chain improvement specialist who helps

Fortune 500 companies boost product quality, productivity and financial performance, Fowler has a clear focus on what it takes to be successful in the C-suite and says it requires more than a winning attitude and determination. Professionals who see themselves among the C-suite ranks must possess a deep set of business skills and discipline. Fowler’s custom C-suite curriculum is a focused and disciplined program that provides direction and wisdom for professionals who aspire to reach the top tier of companies. His programs are designed to help professionals understand the fundamentals to become a CEO (chief executive officer), usually the top position at a company or corporation—the person who signs off on most important decisions— and other C-suite roles such as CFO (chief financial officer) who guides business strategy, risk management, and financial analysis and opportunities; CIO (chief information officer) who governs information technology infrastructure and manages the company’s information technology; and COO (chief operating officer) is a senior executive  tasked with overseeing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of a business and typically reports directly to the CEO.

During the decades he spent in leadership roles at General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford, Fowler established a reputation for developing and executing processes to improve quality and help the companies turnaround their performance. Fowler says that no matter how great his successes, he never achieved a single goal by himself. Each effort required teamwork. “That’s why understanding leadership and teambuilding is critically important at the top,” he says. One of the keys to building a high performing team is to quickly get an understanding of team members’ personal goals and create a specific plan to achieve them. Team members also need to understand the company’s goals to ensure their focus is in alignment. The best leaders realize that they need people, and that people will be willing to go the extra mile for them when they display a genuine interest in helping them achieve their professional and family goals. “One of the best qualities a leader can have is credibility,” he says. “Credibility comes from sharing experiences and abilities with the team to make them better. It is also the way you share what you’ve learned.” Fowler is known for being a sensei, the Japanese title for a teacher or master, and he possesses the ability to make complex subjects seem simple. Much like the head coach of a professional football team who repeatedly analyzes an opposing team’s defense, noting strengths and weaknesses, Fowler has meticulously studied the skills and capabilities required to become a C-suite leader. He says every CEO must be able to review external and internal environments and understand the performance gap for all key stakeholders, especially shareholders. Then, the CEO must be able to work with teams to craft a compelling vision, comprehensive strategy, and plan, and set up a reliable process to ensure execution. A CEO also must have a strategy to develop talent to ensure success. The talent development strategy is also a critical success factor for winning, he says. So is building an executive team that owns technical excellence, working together with transparency and ethics. Finally, professionals who want to effectively position themselves for the C-Suite position must gain knowledge, experience, and confidence by experiencing successes amid adverse circumstances such as turning around profit losses, correcting major production problems, and improving product quality. Fowler successfully faced those challenges. The CEO position was more volatile than ever in 2019, when a record number of chief executives left their

Panic Buying Adds Additional Stress in COVID-19 Pandemic Continued from page A1

authority have the power to calm the panic-buying trend. “On the emotional side, the answer is self-affirmation,” he said. “In our minds, we know one day we are going to be dead, and the mind deals with it through [seeking] control.” He said there is an “over-estimation” of fear and people’s minds need to respond to those kinds of feelings. A need for ‘self-affirmation’ “The need for self-affirmation is triggered and that drives us to do unreasonable things like buying a year’s worth of toilet paper,” Murray explained. “It overwhelms the knowledge that we don’t need to be doing that.” There is a difference in disaster panic and general panic. Toilet paper has become the symbol of the latter. For instance, weather forecasters are able to predict with much greater certainty that a hurricane is barreling toward a certain region. They can provide more information about a cluster of tornadoes about to come your way (though warning times are uncertain at best). With an earthquake, of course, there is little way of predicting that. In these cases, you know it is going to happen and you usually know ahead of time that the emergency will last a couple of days. You’re able to prepare yourself by being somewhat rational with what you buy. In public health issues we have no idea about the duration and or intensity. Therefore, the messages we receive daily may encourage some to go into panic mode and purchase far more than needed because it’s often the only way to maintain a sense of control. But why purchase huge amounts of toilet paper? Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos, an expert in consumer and behavioral science at the University College London, has for the past few months witnessed this phenomenon and offered an unexpected assessment:

“Because toilet paper has a longer shelf-life than many food items,” he said. “And it’s prominently featured in aisles and is big in size. We’re psychologically drawn to purchasing it in times of crisis. It’s in big colorful packages; the bigger they are, the more important we think they are.” Take precautions, but don’t panic While the threat is very real and all precautions should be taken to stay healthy, some shoppers may overestimate the risks of dying from coronavirus. Katharina Wittgens, a psychologist with the behavioral strategy agency Innovation Bubble, suggests that shoppers are creating too much anxiety in themselves, which is never good during either clear or uncertain circumstances. “Far more people die in car accidents or household accidents per year, but we don’t panic in the morning before we go to work about these things,” Wittgens said. “It’s hard to convince our brains of facts, hence why statistics often don’t work.” Wittgens said the surge in panic buying will probably decline after a month when people have had time to think more rationally. “When we stand in front of empty shelves, people fear that stocks will run out, so they buy far more than they need,” she said. “This becomes dangerous as some goods such as soap, medicines and sanitizers become unavailable for those in immediate need.” And because it is more obvious when the paper goods aisle is empty—compared to smaller items—this can also lead to craze over the item intensifying. There have been plenty of examples of price gouging in response to the coronavirus pandemic. There have been reports of a 20-pack of face masks costing more than $100 on e-commerce sites like eBay and Esty. These prices have caused companies to put measures in place to stop

speculators from taking advantage of a spike in demand. This month, for example, Amazon announced it removed more than a million basic-needs products for misleading claims and price gouging. Face masks won’t stop infection The U.S. government has recommended people stop buying face masks, not only because surgical masks aren’t sufficient protection from coronavirus, but because there may not be enough for healthcare professionals who need them to do their jobs. Americans have witnessed this type of irrational behavior before. In 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, when nuclear war seemed imminent, American families filled their basements with enough canned food and bottled water to survive an atomic blast. Then there was Y2K at the turn of the millennium. There were widespread fears of a catastrophic glitch when computers’ internal clock reset to “00” for the year 2000. It was believed that the glitch could crash global markets or send missiles flying across the globe. People just didn’t hoard nonperishables and bottled water, but lots of money: In 1999, the U.S. Treasury was ordered to print an extra $50 billion in the expectation that people would withdraw and stockpile cash. A better plan than panic buying would be to be prepared year-round for a possible emergency or crisis. It’s also worth keeping everyone else’s needs in mind as these types of events unfold. Stock up on what you and your family need and no more. Avoid the urge to hoard enough supplies to fill a doomsday bunker. “Anxiety needs to be acknowledged and managed,” Wittgens said. “We do not want complacency, but high levels of anxiety are not useful to prepare [or] prevent catching it.”

posts, according to a report from career tracking firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Nearly 1,500 CEOs left their posts between January and November 2019, a 12% increase from the same time period in 2018. That’s also significantly more than the 1,100 executives who left their posts in 2008, the height of the Great Recession. It means an unprecedented opportunity for professionals who want to reach the executive levels of leadership in companies and corporations. Fowler says, given the opportunity, he would take on another corporate turnaround mission. With his consulting firm, Bennie Fowler LLC, he helps companies improve supply chain management. As a turnaround leader, Fowler was able to come in, pick up pieces and make things right when his companies were failing to perform. As a change agent, he was trusted to solve problems when there was no obvious solution. As a stabilizer, he understood what to preserve during troubled times and what to eliminate. He says people who want into C-suite ranks should have the ability to quickly assess the current business situation and demonstrate that they can get results in highstakes environments. African Americans need to be overly prepared with unmatched qualifications. Fowler concluded, “I always thought if there was a job that had to be done, and there were 10 people [competing for the job], why shouldn’t it be me? God has blessed me with the talents that I have, I try to use them for the benefit of myself, my family and everybody around me.” Kimberly Hayes Taylor is a freelance journalist in Detroit.

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