By Gina SerpeWed Sep 13, 6:59 PM ET
Turns out, reinstituting segregation on a national television show isn't something the NAACP is quite ready to get behind.
Though the civil rights group has certainly waited long enough to point it out.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has finally spoken out on Survivor: Cook Island's much ballyhooed gimmick to split tribes ethnically when the reality show's 13th season kicks off Thursday night.
"Concerning the new season of Survivor, whether we like the concept or not--and for the record, we do not--it is premature to judge the show purely on conjecture," the organization said in a statement.
"We will judge the show on what we see, and we will monitor the public response."
While the advocacy group can hardly be faulted for issuing its wait-and-see statement, the last-minute timing of the release, particularly for an otherwise outspoken institution, is rather curious.
Several conspiracy-ready critics believe the low-key rapprochement came because of an existing relationship between the NAACP and CBS--the group's president, Bruce Gordon, is a longtime member of the network's board.
Gordon denied his corporate ties influenced the NAACP's reaction. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, he said the public outrage over the racial division was disproportionate to the show's standing in pop culture and a "distraction" to "larger and more important" and more relevant issues.
"I decided not to get caught up in a knee-jerk reaction," he told the paper. "I wanted to think about it, to explore what made sense.
"There are countless race abuses that exist in the entertainment community every day. For the media to give airtime to the format of a TV show when it is silent on the absence of African-Americans on Sunday morning news shows is shameful." (Gordon failed to mention that those Sunday shows get a fraction of the audience of Survivor, which is a Top 10 ratings machine.)
For its part, CBS issued a statement saying the network and show producers "appreciate the NAACP reserving judgment"--something many TV critics, New York City council members and even Rush Limbaugh were unable to do.
Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett, who has taken credit for the season's controversial move, repeated the network's sentiment.
"I would encourage anyone to follow this lead and watch at least a few episodes to get a clear picture of how the dynamic will play out," he said.
The NAACP's decision to actually watch the new season before fully condemning it is a move host Jeff Probst urged reporters to take in a conference call last week.
"Not thinking it's a good idea is a fair and valid opinion," he said of the show's decision to split the tribes into white, black, Asian and Hispanic tribes. "But there are people who have no idea what they're condemning and are using it as a platform for their own agenda.
"All I'm saying is you have to recognize you're condemning our show before you see it and that is not fair or just. Keep that megaphone in your right hand for the finale and tell us if it's what you thought it would be or if it wasn't a little bit inspiring."
Probst, who has perhaps unwittingly become the face of the controversy, also reiterated that the premise's intention was not to cause a national uproar.
"It wasn't a situation where CBS said, 'Okay, we're out of ideas, guess we gotta do this,'" he said. "The time was right for the idea...[The media are] painting this picture of a room full of white guys that's just not the case."
Still, despite all the controversy surrounding the new season, Probst backs the installment as "one of the five best we've ever had."
"At the very least we'll promote discussion, which is what we're doing now," he said.
Survivor: Cook Islands kicks off at 8 p.m. Thursday on CBS.