Fellow actors and a Pulitzer Prize winner have come out in support of former "America's Got Talent" judge Gabrielle Union as she broke her silence about her exit from the show, while her husband, former NBA star Dwyane Wade, confirmed her departure was involuntary.
"So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU!" tweeted "L.A.'s Finest” star Union, 47, Wednesday night, after not commenting for days following a Variety report that she and fellow judge Julianne Hough had abruptly left the NBC talent competition after a single season. "Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever," she wrote.
Their unexpected departures had come about as the result of a "toxic culture" at the show, Variety reported, saying this included a racist stereotype in a joke by guest judge Jay Leno that did not air and frequent notes about Union's hairstyle appearing too ethnic. The network responded in a statement that the show celebrates diversity and that "NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously."
"So when i got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!?" tweeted former Miami Heat guard Wade, 37. "Iam [sic] still waiting on a good answer to that question. But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she's an advocate for our community and culture."
"Grey's Anatomy" star Ellen Pompeo, currently one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood, went after NBC over social media in a series of tweets as well.
"It's unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it...has not changed their practices or culture. I support @itsgabrielleu commitment to speaking up to injustice. It takes courage," tweeted Pompeo.
The 50-year-old star, who makes more than $20 million a year on her "Grey's" salary alone, according to The Hollywood Reporter, continued in a second tweet: "[T]his is a teaching moment..It’s important..white girls I’m talking to you..whether you truly understand what racial injustice is or not..that you stand with your sisters on the front lines. Don’t cut side deals & don’t not get involved because it isn’t your issue..because it is."
She went on to tweet, "Workplace cultures will continue to be toxic until there is unity and solidarity among all women. If you go for self in these moments you undermine the work we are out here trying to do. Obviously this network feels like they can operate like this and it’s okay."
Pompeo added, "I feel important to mention our problems on the Greys set and every set has them…some kind of issue …there’s lots of people in a workplace.. point is… exec producers and the NETWORK @abc cared enough to help us make change support is crucial.”
Grammy-winning singer Ariana Grande joined in support, replying to Pompeo, "[T]hank you for this @EllenPompeo. be better @nbc. we’re with you @itsgabrielleu," adding a black heart emoji.
"This is terrible. You should not be penalized for trying to have a workplace that honors the rule of law … ,” tweeted Emmy, Golden Globe and Oscar winner Patricia Arquette ("Medium," "Escape at Dannemora"), 51, in response to Union's post. Singer-actress Holly Robinson Peete, 55, wrote, "I remember being in a similar spot and you had my back. That's the way that goes." Emmy winner Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing," "Perfect Harmony"), 60, said he was “[w]ith you," while "Cheers" Emmy winner Bebe Neuwirth told Union, "You're fantastic."
Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright-actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, 39, tweeted, "TO THE UNION!," followed by three heart emoji. Earlier in the evening, he had written on the social-media site, “Team @itsgabrielleu, always.”
Singer-actress Hough has not responded on social media since the report, but said in a statement to Variety Tuesday that she had had "a wonderful time on 'America's Got Talent' " and that "I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC."