Morgan Freeman’s voice was silenced on Vancouver-area public transit Thursday, hours before Visa suspended its relationship with him over multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
TransLink’s new public transit ad campaign featured the American actor’s distinctive voice reading out announcements as part of a Visa ad campaign on trains and had only just started this week.
The ads – which feature intercom messages voiced by Mr. Freeman promoting the credit card – were originally planned as part of the rollout of the new credit card and mobile payments on public buses and Skytrains in Metro Vancouver.
But on Thursday, Visa Canada said in a statement they will suspend advertising featuring Mr. Freeman.
“We are aware of the allegations that have been made against Mr. Freeman. At this point, Visa will be suspending our marketing in which the actor is featured,” the statement read.
Shortly after the CNN report first detailed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Mr. Freeman from eight women, TransLink announced it had decided to “pause his voice announcements.”
“We will be in touch with Visa to discuss further,” TransLink said in a statement early on Thursday.
Sixteen people were interviewed by CNN as part of an investigation into a pattern of inappropriate behaviour from Mr. Freeman on set and during interviews, including unwanted touching and public comments about women’s bodies and clothing.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy,” Mr. Freeman said in a statement following the report’s release. “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected – that was never my intent.”
Louisa Russell, who works with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, told The Globe and Mail that her organization supports TransLink’s move to suspend the ads featuring Mr. Freeman.
“The level of accusations levelled against him are serious and do have a significant impact on women using city transportation and getting around the city,” Ms. Russell said. “We think it’s a good move on the part of TransLink to pull those ads in support of all women and the #MeToo movement.”
Mr. Freeman is one of the film industry’s most high-profile stars, with work spanning over five decades. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby and provided the voice-over narration to the 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary March of the Penguins.
According to TransLink, the voice announcements were paid for by Visa Canada as part of an advertising partnership to promote the new tap-to-pay system. Recordings featured Mr. Freeman reminding people of proper bus etiquette or how to pay with their Visa card.
“Good news, Vancouver. Starting today, you can now tap your Visa to go anywhere TransLink takes you,” Mr. Freeman says in one clip released earlier this week by TransLink.
Mr. Freeman’s replacement may already be waiting in the wings. Comedian Seth Rogan, who is originally from Vancouver, proposed himself as a potential alternative option in a tweet TransLink late on Thursday morning.
“Thanks for the offer Seth. Let’s DM and talk,” TransLink’s official twitter account replied.
Other Vancouver celebrities proposed online include actor Ryan Reynolds and music personality Nardwuar.