Jay-Z Defends Deal With NY Race Row Store
Jay-Z has defended himself against mounting criticism over his business relationship with a luxury New York store accused of racially profiling two black customers.
The rap mogul said he is being unfairly "demonised" for waiting to hear "the facts" of what happened in his first statement about the controversy in a posting on his website.
"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 read.
"Why am I being demonised ... for not speaking immediately?"
The 43-year-old has come under fire from fans and social media for remaining silent after it emerged that two young black people claimed they were profiled by Barneys after they bought expensive items from the Manhattan store.
An online petition has been signed calling on the star to reconsider his multimillion dollar contract to design a clothing line with the store for the Christmas season.
Jay-Z said he understood what it felt like to be racially profiled, but he also did not want to jump to unfair conclusions.
"I am against discrimination of any kind but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it's towards, aren't I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?" he asked in his statement.
He also dismissed reports he would profit from the deal with Barneys, saying that his Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides college scholarships to hard-up students, would get 25% of all sales from the collaboration.
The two Barneys customers at the centre of the row, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week that they had been detained by police after making their purchases.
On Tuesday, Mr Christian, 19, announced he was suing Barneys after being accused of fraud for using his debit card to buy a $349 (£215) Ferragamo belt in April.
The following day, Ms Philips, 21, said she would sue over claims she was stopped by detectives outside the store when she bought a $2,500 (£1,500) Celine handbag in February.
As the row grows, Barneys said it had retained a civil rights expert to help review its procedures. The firm's CEO, Mark Lee, has also offered his "sincere regret and deepest apologies".
Prominent civil rights activist the Rev Al Sharpton has threatened to boycott luxury retailer if it fails to respond adequately to the allegations - but he has been quick to defend Jay-Z.
"Some people want to make this about Jay-Z," he said. "No, this is about Barneys first."
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.