One current and 10 former staff members have accused the show of bullying and racism, sparking an investigation by Warner Media, according to a report from Buzzfeed News. And brand experts say while DeGeneres herself has not been directly named as the one behind the allegations, the controversy could be a deal-breaker for brands' partnership with DeGeneres.
“Ultimately, everything that happens on the show is associated with her and brands are partnering with her because they want to trade in on the perception that she’s a kind, loving person and being painted as a racist or someone who runs an organization that tolerates racism or undercutting union rights does not go along with that,” Nandi Welch, partner and head of business strategy for Rupture Studio, a brand strategy consultancy that’s worked with clients like Nike and Pepsi, told FOX Business on Thursday.
“Brands partner with people like Ellen, or discontinue partnerships with figures that get in trouble because they’re trying to let the world know what they stand for," Welch added.
These are some of the companies partnering with DeGeneres:
Walmart teamed up with DeGeneres in 2018 for women’s clothing line EV1 featuring around 60 items from T-shirts to accessories and shoes available in 2,300 stores. The company described the inspiration behind the collection in a press release as: “Great design, positivity and inclusion.” Items are priced at $30 or less. The line is still being sold on Walmart.com. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the future of the partnership.
The ED Ellen Degeneres collection with Wayfair launched in 2015 as a joint venture between DeGeneres and the CEO of Burch Creative Capital, Christopher Burch, according to the Wayfair website. It features furniture items like beds, desks, dressers, baby cribs, mirrors and other items priced between under $100 and upward of $1,600.
The online furniture retailer did not return a FOX Business request for comment asking if it would continue its partnership with DeGeneres. However, the partnership faced other criticism in recent weeks when a conspiracy theory spread online that alleged it was a front for human trafficking by selling pricey cabinets named after people.
DeGeneres was roped into the mix when a social media user posted what appeared to be a screengrab of a pillow from her Wayfair collection page that was allegedly priced on the website for $10,000. The pillow actually sells for far less.
DeGeneres teamed up with pet product company PetSmart in 2017. Her line featured outfits branded with her name along with home décor. She receives licensing fees, according to Forbes. PetSmart did not immediately return a FOX Business request for comment.
Bed Bath & Beyond
DeGeneres’ namesake ED Ellen DeGeneres home collection is also on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond, featuring bedding, table linens, rugs and lighting. She collects licensing fees, according to Forbes. Bed & Bath & Beyond did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the partnership.