(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, is defending rap mogul Shawn "Jay Z" Carter against claims that he is supporting Barneys department store accused of racial profiling.
Sharpton, the leader of the National Action Network, threatened to lead a boycott against Barneys if they did not show proof that they pursued white potential shoplifters as much as black people in their store. Trayon Christian, a black male college student, sparked a petition and is filing a lawsuit against Barneys after alleging that he was racially profiled after New York Police Department officers stopped him following his purchase of a $320 belt from the high end store.
Barneys employees allegedly stated that Christian used a fraudulent debit card to make his purchase which led to his arrest. Jay Z came under fire when petitions called for him to cancel his plans for debuting a holiday clothing collection in the store and has yet to oblige.
However, Sharpton insists that Jay Z is not the issue.
"Some people want to make this about Jay-Z," Sharpton told reporters outside of his NAN office Saturday. "No, this is about Barneys first."
Kirsten John Foy, the head of NAN's Brooklyn office, echoed Sharpton's sentiments.
"I think it's a racist notion to assume that the only black person Barneys does business with is Jay Z. We're not there to focus on Jay Z," Foy said, according to The New York Post. "Jay-Z did not write the corporate policy at Barneys. Jay-Z is just like every other business man, he is there to make money and if he is the only black business man that does business with Barneys – that is the problem."
Jay Z took to his Life and Times website to defend himself after coming under fire in the media and on social media.
"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," Jay Z said in a statement on his website. "..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? I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position."