For all his musical genius, Jay Z is tone deaf on his big-bucks deal with Barneys.
The “99 Problems” rapper, who stands to make millions in a deal selling exclusive wares at the upscale store over the holidays, has been silent about allegations revealed by the Daily News that two black shoppers were racially profiled after legally purchasing items at Barneys.
He’s failed to respond to numerous requests for comment and ignored a hornet’s nest of controversy on social media. More than 1,500 people have signed a petition calling for him to dissolve his deal with Barneys. Even residents of the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, where he grew up, wondered if he’s forgotten the very community that helped make him rich.
“Jay Z and my son grew up together,” said Effie Hardy, 74, who still lives at the public housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“That could be his family Barneys is profiling. They would’ve done the same thing to him back in the day, before he got to where he is now. He should remember that.”
Jesse Ward for New York Daily News
Kirsten John Foy of the National Action Network will meet Barneys CEO next week to discuss the racial profiling incidents.
As the online and neighborhood discussions rage, a new clash of sorts has erupted over the alleged profiling of Kayla Phillips on Feb. 28 — this one between Barneys and the NYPD. They couldn’t agree on how four plainclothes detectives came to target the 21-year-old Brooklyn woman who had just purchased a $ 2,500 Céline handbag.
“(Barneys) notified the police they had suspicion about this purchase and this particular card,” police spokesman John McCarthy told The News Thursday.
“The cops get a complaint from the store,” McCarthy said. “That’s what drives this.”
That contradicts an earlier claim from Kenneth Thompson, vice president of customer experience at Barneys. He told Phillips’ mother in an email first reported Tuesday by The News that “the individual who approached your daughter some time following her visit to our store was not a Barneys employee nor were they acting as a result of a call placed by Barneys New York to the NYPD.”
Even Star Jones and Carl Banks took to Twitter to air their disappointment in Barneys and Jay Z.
Barneys officials said Trayon Christian, 19, who was handcuffed and detained by police after using his debit card to buy a $ 349 Ferragamo belt on April 29, also wasn’t targeted by Barneys.
The circumstances surrounding his detention are under investigation by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, police officials said. They confirmed cops were already inside Barneys, but to arrest someone else. They’re investigating whether a store employee sent them in pursuit of Christian, or if the cops acted independently. Christian is suing the NYPD and Barneys.
Phillips has filed a $ 5 million notice of claim, informing the city of her intent to sue the NYPD. She also intends to pursue a civil rights claim. A nursing student, who is seven months pregnant with her second child, Phillips said she was “overwhelmed” by the outcry her story has generated.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed, but appreciative of all the positive feedback I’m getting,” she said.
Jay Z is in Sweden for the next leg of his “Magna Carta” tour.
Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News
Kayla Phillips was stopped by police after purchasing a $ 2,500 Céline handbag from Barneys.
When he returns to the city, he’ll not only be facing pressure from fans, he might also be hearing from two leaders from the civil rights activist group National Action Network — Kirsten John Foy and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Foy and other black leaders have scheduled a Tuesday sitdown with Barneys CEO Mark Lee.
“I had two phone calls with Barneys CEO Mark Lee . . . he agreed to meet next Tuesday,” said Foy, head of the network’s Brooklyn chapter. “He expressed his grave concern about the incident and wanted to articulate that . . . he’s begun to take steps to review his policies,” Foy said.
Breaking days of silence, Lee released a statement Thursday afternoon. He said Barneys “was conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures . . . to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment to fairness and equality.”
Michael Yaki, a San Francisco attorney and U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member, will lead the review and be given “unrestricted access to all aspects of our store operations,” Lee said.
Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News
Trayon Christian’s suit for being detained after buying a $ 350 belt started the outcry.
Back at the Marcy Houses, another resident said Jay Z needs to send a message that all paying customers need to be respected.
“My money is as good as anybody else’s money. It’s all green,” said Annette Rush, 40.
“From someone that came from the hood, he should know all that. He knows how hard it is. I don’t think he should sell his things there, not at a place where there’s racial profiling going on. It’s ridiculous,” Rush said.
Others — though there were few — still had the superstar’s back.
“It’s not Jay Z’s fault. He was working on it before this happened. He’s probably thinking about it, but it’s already in the dough. He can’t turn back on it now. I don’t hold it against him,” said Wayne Stallings, 25.
New York Daily News
First it was a $ 350 belt then a $ 2,500 bag was subject of racial profiling incidents at Barneys.
Feedback on social media — directed at Jay Z and Barneys — wasn’t quite as glowing.
“If Jay Z continues to do a campaign with this racist store, he’s dirt in my book,” tweeted Michele Mimi Evans.
“Jay Z is about to launch a clothing & jewelry line at Barneys. Will Blue Ivy be racially profiled when she purchases her 1st designer bag?” wrote Eric Washington, alluding to the rapper’s baby daughter.
“I heard Barneys just offered Contnued George Zimmerman a position as Sales Associate. In Men’s Sportwear. You know, where they sell the $ 350 Hoodies,” snarked another ex-fan on Facebook.
A change.org petition has drawn more than 1,300 signatures since racial-profile scandal with Barneys broke.
By Friday morning there were at least 1,518 signatures on an online petition calling for Jay Z to end his relationship with the store.
The enterprising user behind the Change.org petition is also selling “Barneys New Slaves” T-shirts with proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Phillips’ attorney, Kareem Vessup, said he’d gotten other complaints about racial profiling at Barneys, but hadn’t verified them.
“I have received phone calls from people alleging to be racial profiling victims, but they are still under investigation and not confirmed,” he said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stopped briefly to talk to reporters after an event about a half-block from Barneys Thursday night.
Quest Love tweeted his unhappiness over Barneys (though he later deleted it) along with dozens of others.
“Barneys, like many stores in the city, call the police when people are taken into custody for committing crimes in the stores. It’s standard practice,” he said. “Nobody’s stationed nearby a store. Nobody’s stationed inside a store.”
Cops told The News that Barneys had filed 57 complaints about credit card abuse at the store this year.
“The cops get a complaint from the store. That is what drives this,” he said.
Earlier in the week the NYPD said it had made at least 47 arrests for fraudulent credit card use at Barneys to date.
On Thursday, the agency backtracked, saying only 11 of its 52 larceny-related arrests at Barneys were for credit card fraud.
They have not provided a racial breakdown of the arrests.
Sharpton, who also weighed in Thursday for the first time, said he was prepared to take more direct action against Barneys if next week’s meeting failed to produce an understanding with officials that would end racial profiling in its stores.
The direct action, he said, could include picketing, boycotts and demonstrations inside Barneys.
“My concern is that New York does not go from stop-and-frisk to shop-and-frisk,” the civil rights leader said.
With Tina Moore and Rich Schapiro