Reebok has yet to respond to protests calling for the athletic wear line to drop rapper Rick Ross as their spokesperson. Groups have rallied against the brand for working with Ross, accusing him of glorifying rape in the Rocko song “U.O.E.N.O.”
Forty protestors gathered outside Reebok’s Fit Hub, an athletic wear concept store, in New York, on Thursday, April 4 to deliver a petition, spearheaded by anti-sexism advocacy group UltraViolet. The petition gathered over 72,000 signatures online demanding that Reebok sever ties with Ross. Security at the store accepted the petition but blocked protestors from going inside the store.
The controversy was sparked by Ross’s lyric, “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.” Molly is slang for MDMA, which can be used as a date rape drug.
Ross apologized on Twitter, where he has over 2,800,000 followers. “I don’t condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape,” he tweeted, adding, “Apologies to my many business partners, who would never promote violence against women. @ReebokClassics @ultraviolet”.
However he gave a less than eloquent apology on New Orleans radio station Q93.3. “The term ‘rape’ wasn’t used,” he said in his attempted clarification. “You know I would never use the term rape in my records … I just wanted to reach out to all the … sexy ladies, all the beautiful ladies that had been reaching out to me with the misunderstanding: we don’t condone rape and I’m not with that.”
The “sexy ladies” were not impressed. “[Reebok] are paying a man who is literally bragging about raping us while absurdly insisting it can’t possibly be rape if he doesn’t use the word ‘rape’,” UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary said.
Ross was signed by Reebok in March 2012, becoming the latest hip-hop superstar to work with the brand. He joined Alicia Keys as the face of the Reebok Classic line. A Rick Ross concert organized by the Carleton University Students Association in Ottawa for Tuesday, April 8 was cancelled over the controversy.