Judge Sides With Jay Z, Agrees Lack Of Black Arbitrators Could Result In Racial Bias In Roc Nation Case
In 2017, a company by the name of Iconix Brand Group sued Jay Z’s Roc Nation over an agreement involving licensing. Iconix Brand Group says that in 2007, they paid Roc Nation $204 million for certain intellectual property rights but when Roc Nation went behind their back and inked a deal with New Era for a line of special edition baseball caps for the MLB, they totally undermined their agreement.
In response, Roc Nation Apparel Group says that Roc-A-Wear was sold to Iconix in 2007, however, Roc Nation wasn’t founded until a year later and therefore does not fall under that agreement. Jay Z also asked to be dismissed from the suit, mainly because he is not directly involved with RNAG. His attorney writes,
Despite its length, the Complaint lacks any allegations that describe Mr. Carter’s purported involvement in the alleged infringement and anticompetitive behavior. Under well-established New York law, a person’s mere status as an owner, officer, or director of a company, without more, is an insufficient basis to hold him individually liable for actions taken by the company. Plaintiffs’ attempt to use Mr. Carter and his celebrity status to advance their claims is improper and should not be tolerated.
The legal battle commenced as Iconix moved forward with new proceedings with an arbitrator by the name of American Arbitration Association. However, the members of the AAA aren’t a diverse group. In fact, of their 200 arbitrators, only three were African-American, two of which were men and one of the men was a partner at a law firm representing Iconix. To Jay Z, the lack of diversity could lead to bias and the rapper’s legal team quickly called it out.
In his letter to the court, Jay-Z’s attorney, Alex Spiro said that the lack of African American arbitrators
“deprives black litigants like Mr. Carter and his companies of the equal protection of the laws, equal access to public accommodations, and mislead consumers into believing that they will receive a fair and impartial adjudication.”
Spiro requested a stay the arbitration and fortunately for Jay-Z, the judge agreed.
In a very rare instance, the stay of arbitration was granted. Jay Z’s due back in court on December 11.