San Jose-based Cisco promises $5M for charities fighting racism, discrimination
San Jose-based Cisco Systems will pay $4.75 million to resolve a pay discrimination claim by the Department of Labor. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

As nationwide protests over racism and police brutality continue into a second week, Silicon Valley companies are starting to jump into the fold — with cash.

San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc. was the latest Monday to announce it would give $5 million to charities fighting racism and discrimination, a decision announced by CEO Chuck Robbins in a video as the company also postponed its annual Cisco Live event, often used to announce new technology, partnerships and other initiatives.

The announcement comes amid protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck and back for nearly nine minutes.

Cisco donations will go to the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Color of Change, Black Lives Matter Foundation and a slew of other human rights organizations. The company joins other tech titans that announced similar plans this week.

Facebook has promised $10 million that will go to organizations working on racial justice. The Menlo Park-based company hasn’t identified where the money will go, but founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that the company is “working with our civil rights advisors and our employees to identify organizations locally and nationally that could most effectively use this right now.”

Santa Clara-based Intel Corp. pledged $1 million to support efforts to combat social injustice and support anti-racism across “various nonprofits and community organizations.” CEO Bob Swan encouraged employees to also consider donating to such organizations, including Black Lives Matter Foundation, the Center for Policing Equity and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, noting each organization is eligible for a company match.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also sent a letter to employees on Sunday saying that the Cupertino-based company would make donations to “a number of groups,” specifically naming the Equal Justice Initiative. His letter did not indicate how much the iPhone maker would contribute, according to a copy posted by CNBC this week. Apple will also match its employees’ donations two-for-one this month, Cook said.

Cisco’s annual Cisco Live event was set to take place virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be rescheduled for later this month.

“In light of recent events and the turmoil happening across the United States — and with some of your feedback — we feel this is the right thing to do,” Robbins said. “Right now, people across the U.S. and the world are dealing with so much pain, frustration and anger, and many of us need time for space and healing, whether it’s to support your families, friends and colleagues, or simply time for yourself.”

This year was the first time the Cisco Live event was set to happen online, a change spurred by the coronavirus that has halted large events and shuttered workplaces and retailers.

But the types of charities that Cisco and others say they will donate to have likely also faced major disruptions due to the virus, particularly when it comes to fundraising events and securing contracts as governments face looming deficits, Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP, said in an interview Monday night.

“It’s in great need and it’s timely and it is the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s time for corporate responsibility and to see that ‘hey, there’s a real problem here and what are we doing for the problem?’”

Moore said he hoped money would end up in the hands of small charities and community organizations, including the local NAACP and other grassroots groups that could benefit from such contributions right now.

“What happens a lot of times is they go to the big companies or the big groups and guide their money there,” he said. “And it never trickles down to the smaller groups.”

Robbins on Monday framed the donation as “a first step” for Cisco.

“There is so much more we can do beyond just a statement of solidarity, or financial support, including acknowledgement, understanding and action,” he said.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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