Business

It’s time to remove Confederate statues, Red Ventures CEO says

Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias during an interview in 2015.
Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias during an interview in 2015. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

One of Charlotte’s most prominent executives has spoken out in support of removing Confederate monuments from public property.

Minutes after President Donald Trump bemoaned the removal of “our beautiful” Confederate statues on Twitter Thursday, Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias took to Twitter himself to voice support for N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, who said that Confederate statues should be removed from state grounds.

“Leaders cannot leave room for hate and bigotry to poison our communities. Thank you, Governor, for doing what’s right,” Elias tweeted. A Red Ventures spokeswoman said the company had no additional comment.

Cooper’s proposal came a day after a crowd in Durham toppled a Confederate statue outside the old Durham County courthouse earlier this week. Such monuments, however, are protected by a 2015 law, and North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly has shown no signs of changing the law.

In fact, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger wrote in a column Thursday that “an impulsive decision” to pull down monuments wouldn’t be wise.

North Carolina’s 2015 law prohibiting the removal of Confederate monuments was passed after the Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse was removed following the race-based murders of nine people at a Charleston church.

Elias has been vocal about social issues in the past.

Last year, for instance, Elias was fiercely opposed to House Bill 2, the now-repealed controversial measure that limited legal protections for LGBT people. The bill, he warned, put a large-scale expansion of his marketing and technology firm at risk.

Citing HB2, Elias also gave employees extra time off to vote last fall. The privately held company employs more than 2,800.

Red Ventures is headquartered just over the state line in Indian Land, but the company was founded in Charlotte and still has offices in the city. Many Red Ventures employees, including Elias himself, also live in Charlotte.

It’s unclear whether Elias’s support of Cooper will prompt other executives across the state to voice their opinion on the Confederate statue matter. If they do, it wouldn’t be the first time business leaders have used their platform to affect social change.

The Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, a group of executives headed by Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, last year came out against HB2, and played a role in helping to broker a compromise that ultimately repealed the bill.

A Duke Energy spokesman said that the council “is going to remain focused on its core mission of education and workforce development,” and declined to comment beyond that. The AP contributed.

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