At presstime, a Change.org petition to "fire" Jesse Williams from ABC's Grey's Anatomy for his impassioned speech on race at the BET Awards had drawn 7,279 supporters but was being countered by more than a dozen petitions in support of the actor with collectively more than 30,000 signatures.
In the speech, Williams, who was accepting a humanitarian award, slammed police shootings and said it had to change. "We are going to have equal rights and justice in our country or we will restructure their function, and ours."
The speech drew a standing ovation, but also the petition to pull him from the show. However, by Tuesday the petitions in support had flooded in. The one with by far the most supporters—over 20,000—was entitled "don't let the racists win" and teed up the issue this way:
"Jesse Williams is a bright man, passionate spokesman and a committed advocate of black people and #BlackLivesMatter who took a public stand on BET Awards show, risking his job and career for his beliefs. Now is the time for us to stand for Jesse and petition Shonda Rhimes and the other decision makers at Grey's Anatomy and ABC to support this brave leader, not just by not firing him or in any way diminishing his role or pushing out, but by openly standing with him and speaking against hate in any form. Don't just tell the racists, 'No'. Show them!"
Show creator Shonda Rhimes signaled she had no intention of sanctioning Williams for speaking his mind, tweeting July 4: "Um, people? Boo don't need a petition. #shondalandrules." Rhimes also retweeted Williams from the day before: "Do not promote empty people & their tantrums. Pure clickbait to gain followers, attention & money, for themselves, not you. Never you."