Jay Z Dragged Into Barneys Racial-Profiling Dispute

The rapper has a lucrative collection opening at the high-end store as two African-American shoppers say it mistreated them

Jay Z, Barneys, race, petition
Jay Z in July Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail was an album that was more intriguing as a business deal. Now a business deal has Hov coming under fire. As BET.com points out, a petition on Change.org is asking the rap mogul to drop his upcoming Barneys holiday collection — a partnership that stands to earn him millions — after two African-American shoppers said they were racially profiled at the high-end store.

The petition, which had more than 1,600 supporters as of early October 25, maintains that by ending the deal, Jay Z would make a profound anti-profiling statement to all companies. Of the two shoppers, 19-year-old Trayon Christian reportedly said New York police handcuffed and questioned him about how he managed to pay for a $349 belt he had just bought at Barneys. And 21-year-old Kayla Phillips reportedly said she was also approached by New York police at the store. Both had their credit cards questioned.

"Barneys lacks any connection with the Black and hip hop community," Brooklyn-based entrepreneur Derick Bowers writes in the petition. "And without his vast wealth and brand power, they would see him the same as they see Trayon Christian. Jay Z should be appalled by Barneys actions, and withdraw all support from them. If he does this, he will send a clear message to all corporations that are likeminded, that this behavior cannot be tolerated any longer."

The New York Daily News reports that Phillips, who bought a $2,500 handbag, has filed a legal document saying she plans to sue the New York Police Department for $5 million. Civil rights leaders, including Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network, have set a meeting with Barneys CEO Mark Lee for October 29. The Rev. Al Sharpton told the Daily News, "My concern is that New York does not go from stop-and-frisk to shop-and-frisk."

Barneys head Lee addressed the situation in a Facebook post on October 24, saying the company plans a thorough internal investigation led by civil rights specialist Michael Yaki. "Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies," Lee said in the statement. He added, "We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service — without exception."

Jay Z is set to play a show in Stockholm tonight. He begins the U.S. leg of his "Magna Carter World Tour" on November 30 in Minnesota. According to the Daily News, the rapper's Barneys collection, which hits shelves on November 20, ranges from a $70 T-shirt to a $33,900 watch. Hov's verse about his wealth on Drake's Nothing Was the Same track "Pound Cake" might now be inopportune for more than just the way he clunkily repeats the word "cake."

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