Nickelodeon went off the air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to support and raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement. They announced the decision on June 1 on Twitter, posting a declaration of kids’ rights along with the caption: “we are all part of the change #blacklivesmatter.” During the segment, Nickelodeon aired a scrolling screen showing the kids’ declaration, as well as a powerful video honoring George Floyd and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The video aired across all Viacom networks, including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network and BET. It lasted a symbolic 8 minutes and 46 seconds, which is the length of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck, preventing him from breathing. Floyd begged him to stop, saying he couldn’t breathe, which is why the Viacom video showed the words “I Can’t Breathe” slowly flashing across the black background, along with breathing sounds.
The video is available on MTV’s YouTube channel:
The Video Generated Debate on Social Media, With Many Praising Nickelodeon for the Decision
The video’s appearance on Nickelodeon, a children’s network, sparked debate on social media, with many praising the decision to use their platform for the powerful message. Others expressed concern, saying that the video scared their kids and was disturbing to watch. One person said, “What @Nickelodeon did was needed. Kids are often sheltered from times like these and maybe thats part of [the] problem. Years from now 2020 will be in text books. Lets educate kids now.”
Another person said: “Mad respect for @Nickelodeon in using their platform to send a necessary message to every child in America. Young black children are taught to live with this fear. Sorry the truth doesn’t align to your narrative.”
One person shared a screenshot of Nickelodeon responding to criticism:
The original complaint read: “This is not the right platform for this at all. The average age of the children that watch your channel are under the age of 12 and If anything all [you’re] doing is scaring children and that is just wrong.” Nickelodeon replied: “Unfortunately, some kids live in fear every day. It’s out job to use our platform to make sure their voices are heard and their stories are told.”
Another person tweeted: “You are a children entertainment platform. That is all you will ever be. Don’t preach political/moral content, because that is age appropriate material and is NOT entertainment. You should be ashamed. Apologize.”
One person with the username QaTanya and the handle @geigtm wrote: “Ok I’m PISSED! Why is this shit just popping up on Nickelodeon while my kid is watching a show?!!!! My 8 year old is scared to death!!! F*CK YOU MEDIA!!! F*CK YOU!!! U are DONE!” The user received a significant amount of backlash for her comments and the account has since been deleted.
One person replied: “Black children are dying and Nickelodeon has BLACK child actors they HAVE to say something. I’m sorry your privilege allows [you] to disconnect and ignore. Our black kids CANNOT do the same. Understand that point of view.” Another added: “It’s your duty as a mom to tell him what it means, why it’s important to understand their privilege on top of that it’s important that YOU and him know what OTHERS who have a different skin color go through ON A DAILY BASIS. EDUCATE YOURSELF AND YOUR CHIDLREN.”
People Also Debated Which Video Nickelodeon Aired, As Some Only Saw the Kids’ Declaration & Not the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Segment
There was also some debate about which video Nickelodeon aired, as some saw the orange kids’ declaration and others saw the “I Can’t Breathe” spot for a few minutes before the network cut away. One person shared:
Another said: “Not entirely accurate. While other Viacom channels did the ‘I can’t breathe’ clips, Nickelodeon is obviously more children focused so it spread its message in a different way.”
One person posted:
They wrote that at 5pm, the network briefly aired the “I Can’t Breathe” segment, then at 6pm they aired the kids’ declaration. One person added that there were staggered airings since they saw the “I Can’t Breathe” video at a different time.