On Thursday, Reebok cut its relationship with Miami rapper Rick Ross a/k/a Ricky Rozay over his controversial lyrics in the song “U.O.E.N.O.” and his even more glaring failure to apologize sincerely. The controversial lyrics are “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”
Sidebar: When did the definition of a molly become common knowledge? I know that Ricky Rozay longs for the days when rap lyrics were a code decipherable only by a select few.
A certain amount of misogynism has been accepted in rap, but Ross’ comments were even too much for a tolerant rap listening community. In early April, Ross realized the offensive nature of his lyrics and did what all celebs who screw the pooch should do. He took to Twitter.
As far as apologies go, this has to be one of the worst in history. Further, it is unclear if this apology is to women who would be offended by his promotion of rape or to his sponsors, Reebok, in particular. As the level of toxicity that Ross was bringing to the Reebok brand began reaching near poisonous levels, Reebok’s next step became as clear as the diamonds in Ross’ watch. Ricky Rozay, you’re fired!!
For the record, I agree that Ross needed to go, but that does not truly address the issue. Cutting Ross is a bit hypocritical when Reebok has other rappers on their roster, past and present, who are no less morally bankrupt. Rap is often the one media outlet for the ills of the poor neighborhoods in America’s urban cities. Further, it is a law of nature that rappers who seem more rebellious, ruthless and aggressive tend to have wider appeal than rappers who seem happy, wholesome and non-threatening. Therefore, successful rappers by definition are going to say things that will make a lot of people uncomfortable, VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. Those same successful rappers will bring a lot of heat to your brand if you sign them as endorsers. Reebok clearly wants that heat.
Reebok has been cozy with the hip-hop community since partnering with Jay-Z in 2003 when they released the S. Carter Collection by Rbk and that shoe become the fastest selling shoe in Reebok’s history. While Jay-Z is now palling around with President Obama and also the face of a rapidly growing media and entertainment empire, let us not forget that Jay-Z has talked about moving a lot of weight in his music over the years. So promoting rape is NOT OKAY, but promoting the drug trade is JUST FINE?
On the back of such success, Reebok was hungry for another quick hit with the hip-hop community, so it sold a reported 3.8 million pairs of shoes with 50 Cent and G. Unit. 50 Cent, who was last seen getting stiff-armed by Erin Andrews on national television, has been quoted as saying the following, “England’s drinking laws are definitely going to cause more threesomes and if you’re out that late, you gotta feed the girl the champagne. They love that stuff.” 50 Cent is not too far off message from Ross with that comment.
When Reebok made the decision in 2003 to do business with the hip-hop community, it should have also committed to stand up to the public relations storms that were sure to come. It would be like hiring Charlie Sheen and then firing him as soon as he is photographed with his face in a mountain of cocaine like Tony Montana in or shows up on TMZ fondling porn stars. It is Charlie Sheen, what do you think he is going to do? Firing Ross is the easy thing to do, but firing him alone doesn’t solve the problem. The firing should have been coupled with an announcement that Reebok would donate money to fund date rape prevention on college campuses or funding rape treatment centers. If you do think that firing Ross solved the problem, read what fellow rapper and Reebok endorser, Tyga, had to say about the situation.
“It’s like freedom of speech,” said Tyga. People act like they don’t condone it. Like you can’t say what you feel. You know what I’m saying? It’s just stupid. What he said that’s just freedom of speech. It wasn’t even his record. For them to do all that off of a mixtape song that wasn’t even his is kinda like – You just got those groups they just wanna [petition].”
Tyga is certainly not going to win any Humanitarian of the Year awards after that comment. It is not about your freedom of speech, it is about repairing the damage that the free speech caused.
Ironically, the words Ricky said in the song U.O.E.N.O. immediately before the lyrics that cost him his deal were, “I’d die over these Reeboks, You don’t even know it.”
Reebok clearly didn’t feel the same way about you, Ricky. By the way, please go hire a competent publicist. NOW!!