Rapper Rick Ross has been in headlines for weeks regarding his lyric on Rocko’s track “U.O.E.N.O.” rapped about slipping a “molly” in a girl’s champagne and having sex with her without her knowing. The back lash was swift with shows being canceled, radio stations pulling his music from rotation, and women’s rights and rape survivor groups protesting outside of Reebok’s flagship store in New York. Ross issued a half-hearted apology for the public’s misinterpretation of the lyric.
Today Reebok issued a statement ending their relationship with the rapper:
Reebok holds our partners to a high standard, and we expect them to live up to the values of our brand. Unfortunately, Rick Ross has failed to do so. While we do not believe that Rick Ross condones sexual assault, we are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse. At this time, it is in everyone’s best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross.”
What Rick Ross and his handlers failed to take into account was the current climate. The lyrics came at a time when a high profile rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio was wrapping up which involved teens, intoxication and the interpretation of what consent is. His team also failed to take the rising voices seriously and issued a response that felt largely empty and lacking empathy for the larger issue at hand the lyric highlighted.
I’m a Rick Ross fan. I am a consumer of his product and I enjoy his music. I don’t believe that he was purposely trying to champion rape. However, once it became apparent that the concerns were magnifying an undercurrent in hip-hop. A more thoughtful approach was required. That’s the approach that Reebok took when they decided to end their endorsement with them.
This afternoon on Twitter, Hip-Hop blogger Karen Civil felt the move was Reebok’s loss because Ross was keeping them relevant in the urban consumer base.
Reebok needs Rick Ross more than Rick Ross needs them..
— Karεn Ciѵil (@KarenCivil) April 11, 2013
I couldn’t disagree more. Ross was a part of their branding outreach but it won’t stop and end with him. Reebok has Allen Iverson in their lifestyle locker, surely he can speak to, and reach the same demo that Reebok was targeting with Ross. To take it a step further, Ross isn’t even revered for his shoe game. Bottom line, Rick Ross is completely replaceable in this equation, there are a multitude of different ways they can go to reach the urban market. If Ricky Rozay was that much of an asset to Reebok, they would’ve stood behind him. The return on that investment isn’t that high.
Ask Nike, they handle controversy with their endorsers like no other.