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The rap mogul Jay-Z is taking some heat over his relationship with the luxury store Barneys New York, amid allegations that the store racially profiled two customers.AP Photo / Matt Rourke, File
The rap mogul Jay-Z is taking some heat over his relationship with the luxury store Barneys New York, amid allegations that the store racially profiled two customers.AP Photo / Matt Rourke, File

Jay Z defends deal with store accused of profiling

Jay Z has been criticised for remaining silent after two young black people said they were profiled by Barneys after they purchased expensive items from their store.

Jay Z – under pressure to drop a collaboration with the American luxury store Barneys New York after it was accused of racially profiling two black customers – says he’s being unfairly “demonised” for waiting to hear all of the facts.

The rap mogul has been criticised for remaining silent after two young black people said they were profiled by Barneys after they purchased expensive items from its Manhattan store.

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

But Jay Z, who is coming to the capital for a Formula One concert on Friday at the du Arena, defended himself on his website on Saturday, saying he hasn’t spoken about it because he’s still trying to figure 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,” he wrote. “Why am I being demonised for not speaking immediately?”

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

Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a US$349 (Dh1,280) Ferragamo belt in April. 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 Céline handbag in February.

The chief executive of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his “sincere regret and deepest apologies”.

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.

Jay Z also dismissed reports he would profit from the collaboration with Barneys. Instead, his Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides college scholarships to economically challenged students, will get 25 per cent of all sales.

He said he understood what it felt like to be racially profiled, but he also didn’t 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?”

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