Silicon Valley Organization CEO resigns after racist image scandal

Bay Area

Getty Images: Steve Jennings / Stringer

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Organization has resigned after a “blatantly racist” image was posted to the organization’s website.

CEO Matthew Mahood resigned shortly after he had been placed on administrative leave, and after some SVO members resigned themselves.

The image posted to the SVO website showed Black people, some holding sticks, with a big cloud of smoke on the street. Text above the image said “Do you really want to sign on to this?”

SVO said in a statement that the image was “blatantly racist, completely inappropriate and unacceptable.”

They went on to say:

We are horrified by this image as it does not represent
the values of the organization, the leadership, the Board of Directors or our members. For
that, we apologize. There is no excuse. The Board of Directors is moving quickly and
effectively to understand how this could have occurred, and to ensure it never happens
again. We understand that swift, effective action is required so that the other positive
work and community support of the SVO is not impacted.

SVO partial statement

In announcing his resignation, Mahood said he is “very sorry for the completely unacceptable image that was put up on our website earlier this week.” He also said he had no knowledge of the image’s posting on the website, but that he is ultimately responsible for the team member who made the “horrible mistake.”

A third-party investigator is working to determine how the image was posted, SVO said. The SVO political action committee’s activities are suspended.

Valley Water in Santa Clara has had an SVO membership for 44 years and its CEO, Rick Callender, was on the SVO Board of Directors. He is one of the associates that cut ties with SVO after seeing the image and gave a statement on Wednesday:

“As an African American CEO, I am disgusted, hurt and deeply offended by The Silicon Valley
Organization’s (SVO) racist attempt in a political campaign to use a civil rights era picture of African
American men to stir up racial fear and hatred.

Using these images to suggest there should be something to fear or distrust or other stereotypical issues associated with African American men should not be allowed in political campaigns, in the community, or from those who purport to represent us as industry associations.

This is not about the election cycle; this is about trying to incite people to be fearful of me, an African
American man, in my own community, which I live and work. This racist act is unacceptable.

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