NEW YORK: The Empire State Building has called a social media campaign from cancer groups asking the landmark to "go gold" for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month "abusive" – and the organizations are fighting back.
The groups launched the social media initiative, called "Empire Go Gold," earlier this month on Twitter and Facebook after the Empire State Building denied requests from individuals asking that the building’s top floors be lit up in gold to raise awareness of children fighting cancer.
On Sunday, the building published a statement on behalf of its employees on its website and social media pages. By Monday morning, the statement had been deleted from its website, but still appeared on its social media accounts.
"A social media campaign has been launched to lobby for this individual’s request with a false pretense: that the Empire State Building does not care about children with cancer," said the statement. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
The building’s management explained that it does provide specialized lighting for World Cancer Day in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
It added in the statement that Empire State Building staffers have been attacked via email, phone, and social media with "profanity, threats, bullying, and, perhaps the worst, wishes that they ‘get cancer.’"
"Each of us has a personal cause which is important, and many of our employees have had direct, personal experience of loss from cancer, as well as other personal health tragedies," the building’s management said in a statement.
Organizations that "behave responsibly" may apply for lighting partnerships in the future, it added.
Children’s cancer organizations supporting the Empire Go Gold campaign include Arms Wide Open, Children’s Cancer Foundation, Thumbs Up for Lane Goodwin Cancer Foundation, CURE Childhood Cancer Foundation, Camp Good Days, Special Times, and the Ronan Thompson Foundation. Parents, advocates, and young patients are also involved with the campaign.
In response, the cancer groups said in a statement on Monday that the Empire State Building’s talking points paint building management and owners as victims, while cancer patients are fighting for their lives.
In their latest statement, the groups contended that the Empire State Building’s management team has "cloaked themselves in the mantle of victim," referencing "abusive" responses from members of the public unaffiliated with pediatric cancer organizations.
"We find this last action audacious and unconscionable," they added. "There are real, little victims of a real disease fighting every day just to have a third birthday, a first day of school, or simply the chance to grow up. We reject the Empire State Building’s attempt to vilify the efforts of our parents through their statement."
The cancer groups added that they do not condone any kind of bullying or harassment.
The advocates explained in the statement that they launched their campaign after the Empire State Building cited a shifting set of criteria as the reason for denying the lighting requests after several individuals contacted the building’s management.
For instance, the Empire State Building initially claimed there were not enough free evenings in the year to light the building gold for children battling cancer. However, the groups’ statement pointed out that free nights are listed on the Empire State Building’s calendar.
The building’s management then indicated that it does not light the landmark for specific causes, commercial interests, or political reasons. However, the groups explained that the Empire State Building has been lit in support of breast cancer awareness and even went green for the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Earlier this month, the building was lit blue in support of the Democratic Party’s attempt to bring the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn.
The groups followed up with what they called "polite postings" on the building’s Facebook page, asking its management to reconsider. They also said the Empire State Building has blocked the campaign’s advocates from posting on its Instagram page.
In response, advocates created two Facebook pages, which have about 7,000 followers between them, and a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #EmpireGoGold.
"Rather than replying with compassion, the Empire State Building social media team began censoring posts and deleting photos posted by parents of children struggling against this disease," said the cancer groups.
Edelman is the Empire State Building’s PR AOR, according to Matthew Frappier, a senior account supervisor at the firm. Frappier would not comment on the ESB’s comms strategy on the matter and said Edelman does not handle social media for the building.
Melanie Maasch, the building’s director of PR, did not return PRWeek’s phone calls or emails on this issue.
Media outlets, politicians, cancer organizations, and even the rapper Tyga have supported the campaign on Twitter.
#EmpireGoGold - What they will change their lights for --> http://t.co/nIdUhjRejI <-- but="" say="" no="" to="" kids="" a="" href="http://t.co/xlrv7GCU0A" data-mce-href="http://t.co/xlrv7GCU0A">http://t.co/xlrv7GCU0A— Max Cure Foundation (@Max_Cure) August 16, 2014