By Chris Hoenig
While Jay Z’s business dealings with Barneys have come under the most public of microscopes since allegations of racial profiling and unlawful detentions at the Manhattan store, it turns out that Barneys is not the first company that Jay Z does business with to face claims of racism and discrimination.
Allegations have surfaced of racism and discrimination at New York’s Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. A $4 million lawsuit has been filed against the arena and its operators by three men who claim that they have been provided with poor service and overcharged because they are Black.
Glen Defreitas, Sean Scarborough and Jermaine Pratt claim they are the only Black luxury-suite leaseholders in the 19,000-seat arena, which has roughly 100 suites. The trio are staffers at Ludwig’s Drug Store, which is paying nearly $1 million for the rights to the suite for the next three years. They claim that their luxury box is rarely cleaned, that they are either treated with suspicion or outright ignored by staff, receive food and drink orders hours late or not at all, and were once charged $1,000 for a pizza that was late and cold.
According to the suit, Brian Basloe, who is Barclays Center’s Senior Vice President of Suite & Ticket Sales, approached Defreitas because he was a Black man in the ritzy suites area. “Why are you always here” Basloe asked, according to the suit. “You’ve been coming here a lot.” When Defreitas told Basloe that he was a rights holder for one of the boxes, Basloe allegedly responded: “Sometimes I have to be the bad guy. I have a background in law enforcement.”
Just over a week after purchasing the rights to the box, the three say they overheard arena staff on their radios labeling them a security threat, followed by orders to investigate their suite. A security team allegedly swept into the wrong box, forcing the people in that suite to get on the floor while they were checked out.
A week after that incident, they say they ordered a pizza for a guest. The pizza reportedly took an hour to arrive, and after being accused of not paying for the pie, they were handed a bill for $1,000 for the food.
Barclays spokesman Barry Baum said they have not received any complaints from the three and are still waiting to see any legal papers. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for any type of discriminatory behavior. It is against everything that Barclays Center stands for,” he said.
Jay Z reportedly designed the luxury suites at Barclays Center. While he owned just a fraction of the Nets, he is said to have had major influence over the arena’s and the team’s look, including the simplified black-and-white logo that was introduced after the franchise moved from New Jersey. Jay Z sold his stake in the team when he launched his sports-agency business.
This past summer, just months after Jay Z used a Samsung commercial to announce his Magna Carta Holy Grail album concept, the company came under fire for a commercial it produced to market the 840 EVO, a new solid-state hard drive. The ad features a white woman sitting in her kitchen, dressed in pink, talking about how she only uses her laptop to help her kids with their homework and look at pictures; a white man in a shirt and tie at his office, noting that he uses his laptop mostly for work; and an Asian man, portraying himself as the most technologically competent of the three, who uses his computer for homework, video games and transferring files.
When they’re given these new hard drives, the woman is the only one of the three who has no idea what it is or how it works. The commercial surprised enough consumers that Reddit users started a page to document their complaints.
Jay Z’s deal with Samsung is worth an estimated $20 million.
Other Business Dealings Also Scrutinized
According to ESPN and Yahoo! Sports, Jay Z’s sports agency, Roc Nation, is also being investigated, though it has nothing to do with racism or discrimination.
The reports say that Major League Baseball and its Players Association are looking into a nearly $34,000 watch that Jay Z gave to New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano as a birthday gift. Officials are trying to determine whether the timepiece ran afoul of rules that prevent agents from giving money or expensive gifts to potential clients.
Cano dropped his agent, Scott Boras, to sign with Roc Nation in April.
Jay Z Stands His Ground
While these investigations continue, Jay Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, is standing his ground when it comes to his business relationship with Barneys.
He released a statement in late October refuting that he was going to make money in the deal he had reached with the retailer, saying a portion of revenue from sales was going to his foundation.
“This collaboration lives in a place of giving and is about the foundation. I am not making a dime from this collection; I do not stand to make millions, as falsely reported. I need to make that fact crystal clear. The Shawn Carter Foundation is the beneficiary and the foundation is receiving 25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys. This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning. My idea was born out of creativity and charity not profit.
“I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts. Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration.
“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 I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.”
Jay Z has refused to end his partnership with Barneys.
Another Racial Profiling Lawsuit Against Macy’s
Another New York couple has filed a lawsuit against Macy’s, alleging that they were racially profiled after making purchases with a gift card. Richard Campbell and Samantha Bynoe say they were stopped in the retailer’s Garden City, Long Island, location in September, forced into a back room and held there with their 2-year-old daughter for an hour.
“Two maleswho did not identify themselves but who later turned out to be Macy’s employeesaggressively stopped the plaintiffs and took from the plaintiffs the bags containing [their] purchases and directed [them] to return to the Macy’s store,” according to the suit.
They provided their receipts but remained in custody while security staff rummaged through their purchases from Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. They were later released without any charges.
Their attorney, David Jaroslawicz, said he was preparing the lawsuit before other recent allegations of racial profiling and discrimination were made public. “What I think is interesting is Macy’s has had this problem before,” he said.
Macy’s settled a discrimination lawsuit in 2005 for $600,000 and appointed a monitor to prevent future cases of racial profiling.