Jay-Z defends deal with store accused of profiling

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NEW YORK — Jay-Z — under increasing pressure to back out of a collaboration with the luxury store Barneys New York after it was accused of racially profiling two black customers — said Saturday he’s being unfairly “demonized” for just waiting to hear all of the facts.

The rap mogul made his first statement about the controversy in a posting on his website. He has come under fire for remaining silent as news surfaced this week that two young black people said they were profiled by Barneys after they purchased expensive items from their Manhattan store.

An online petition and Twitter messages from fans have been circulating this week, calling on the star to bow out of his upcoming partnership with Barneys for the holiday season, which will have the store selling items by top designers, inspired by Jay-Z, with some of the proceeds going to his charity. He is also working with the store to create its artistic holiday window display.

But Jay-Z — whose real name is Shawn Carter — defended himself, saying that he hasn’t spoken about it because he’s still trying to figure out exactly what happened.

“I move and speak based on facts and not emotion,” the statement said. “I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?” he said, referring to local newspaper headlines.

The two Barneys customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week they were detained by police after making expensive purchases.

Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April. Philips filed a notice of claim saying she would sue after she was stopped by detectives outside the store when she bought a $2,500 Celine handbag in February.

As the criticism grew, Barneys said Thursday it had retained a civil rights expert to help review its procedures. The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his “sincere regret and deepest apologies.”

Kirsten John Foy, an official with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said he would meet with Barneys officials on Tuesday to discuss the racial profiling allegations.

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