Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Jay-Z 'demonised' over store deal

Rap mogul Jay-Z has defended himself against criticism over his collaboration with a top store at the centre of racial profiling claims.
Rap mogul Jay-Z has defended himself against criticism over his collaboration with a top store at the centre of racial profiling claims.

Jay-Z, under pressure to drop a partnership with luxury store Barneys New York after it was accused of racially profiling two black customers, has said he is being "demonised" for waiting to hear all of the facts.

The rap mogul made his first statement about the controversy in a posting on his website.

He has been criticised for remaining silent after two young blacks said they were profiled by Barneys after they bought expensive items from its Manhattan store.

An online petition and Twitter messages from fans have been circulating, calling on the star to leave his upcoming partnership with Barneys for the festive season, which will have the store selling items by top designers, inspired by Jay-Z, with some proceeds going to his charity.

But Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, said he had not spoken about it because he was still trying to find out what happened.

"I haven't made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys," his statement said. "Why am I being demonised ... for not speaking immediately?"

He also dismissed reports that he would profit from the collaboration with Barneys. He says his Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides college scholarships to poorer students, will get 25% of all sales from the collaboration.

He said he understood what it felt like to be racially profiled, but did not want to jump to unfair conclusions.

"I am against discrimination of any kind but if I make snap judgments, no matter who it's towards, aren't I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?" he said.

The two Barneys customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week they were detained by police after making expensive purchases.

Mr Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a 349-dollar (£217) Ferragamo belt in April. Ms Philips filed a notice of claim saying she would sue after she was stopped by detectives outside the store when she bought a 2,500-dollar (£1,550) Celine handbag in February.

Barneys said it had retained a civil rights expert to help review its procedures. Chief executive Mark Lee has offered his "sincere regret and deepest apologies".

Kirsten John Foy, an official with the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, said he would meet with Barneys officials on Tuesday to discuss the allegations.

Jay-Z, who rose from a life of crime to become one of entertainment's biggest superstars, has in the past called for a boycott of labels perceived to be racist. He has become more political in recent years, from speaking out about the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin to campaigning for President Barack Obama.

AP

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