Spike Lee Calls Oscars Diversity Outrage a 'Misdirection Play’

Lee has spoken out about the lack of diversity among executives in Hollywood.

ByABC News
January 20, 2016, 7:40 AM

— -- Director Spike Lee says that when Hollywood's biggest stars gather next month in California for the 88th Annual Academy Awards, he will be on the other side of the country at a basketball game.

"Feb. 28th, we’ll be at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, to see my beloved orange and blue hopefully beat the Miami Heat," Lee said today on "Good Morning America." "I'm going to the game."

Lee, a two-time Academy Award nominee, has spoken out about the lack of diversity among this year's Oscar nominees but he said his non-attendance should not be called a boycott.

"Here’s the thing. I have never used the word boycott," Lee said on "GMA." "All I said was my beautiful wife Tonya, we’re not coming. That’s it, then I gave the reasons, so I never used the word boycott."

"It’s like do you. We're not coming," he said. "I’m not going. My wife’s not going. Everyone else can do what they want to do."

The Academy Awards has drawn fire the past two years for not including minorities in the top award categories. This year, not one person of color was nominated for the coveted gold trophy in top categories such as Best Actor or Actress and Best Supporting Actor or Actress.

The lack of diversity among this year's nominees has sparked the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Lee, who put the spotlight on Hollywood’s diversity problem in November when he accepted an Honorary Oscar, called it a "misdirection play" to focus solely on the Academy Awards, whose governing body is 94 percent white and 77 percent male.

"We’re chasing a guy down the field when he doesn’t even have the ball," Lee said, drawing on a football analogy. "The other guy is high-stepping in the end zone.

"It goes further than the Academy Awards. It has to go back to the gatekeepers. The people who have the green-light vote," Lee said. "We’re not in the room. The executives, when they have these green-light meetings quarterly where they look at the scripts, they look who’s in it and they decide what we’re making and what we’re not making."

Lee suggested that Hollywood studios implement a program similar to what he says has been successful in the NFL, where he says teams are required to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior executive jobs.

"That has increased the number of minority coaches and executives in the NFL and that should be used because we can’t go to that old tired realm, ‘Well we can’t find any qualified candidates,'" Lee said. "That is BS."

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement Monday night to say she was "heartbroken" by the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nominations and said she would conduct a review of membership recruitment in the coming days and weeks.

Lee said Isaacs also raised the issue in November but that real change will take time.

"When I received my honorary Oscar at the Governor’s Ball in November, she began that night saying this was her plan," Lee said. "We can’t say, ‘Hocus, pocus, presto chango’ and the membership’s going to change overnight."

Lee called the issue of diversity in Hollywood a problem "from top to bottom." He said when his film, "Do the Right Thing," was nominated for a 1989 Best Picture Oscar, it lost the award to "Driving Miss Daisy."

"That film's being taught in colleges, schools," Lee said of "Do the Right Thing." "No one is watching ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ now. So it also shows you that the work is what’s important because that’s what’s going to stand for years, not an award."

This year’s Oscars ceremony is being hosted by Chris Rock. The comedian himself weighed in on the award show’s lack of diversity in nominations while tweeting a promo for the 88th Academy Awards.

Rock captioned the promo video with, “The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.”

When asked what would he do if he were in Rock's position, Lee replied that there are no "if's" and reiterated that he himself would be watching the Knicks play in New York.

"Chris Rock is a grown-a** man," Lee said. "He’s just going to do what he wants to do and I support either way."

The 88th Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Feb. 28.