Hip-hop mogul and entrepreneur Jay-Z and his clothing company, Rocawear, began selling Occupy Wall Street-themed T-shirts on its Web site Friday, causing some controversy over how Rocawear plans to manage the sales profits.
Occupy Wall Street is scribed on the T-shirts in bold, capital, white letters, but the W in Wall is scribbled out and an S is scribbled in at the end of Street, creating Occupy All Streets. It's all on a black T-shirt.
The T-shirt is selling for $22 and is currently only on backorder on the Rocawear site. Jay-Z's name and clothing line will undoubtedly bring more celebrity publicity to Occupy Wall Street. Jay-Z's good friend, fellow hip-hop mogul and collaborator on the recent Watch the Throne, Kanye West, has visited Zuccotti Park. Celebrities Lupe Fiasco, Russell Simmons, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin have also shown up.
Jay-Z was spotted this week with Simmons wearing the T-shirt in Madison Square Garden, after a concert with West.
But Business Insider asked the question of whether Jay-Z was using this opportunity to help the movement or to profit from it. A Rocawear spokesperson sent the Web site an emailed statement saying the company was not planning to give any profits to Occupy Wall Street.
The spokesperson did add, however, that it wanted to support the movement with the T-shirt.
The 'Occupy All Streets' T shirt was created in support of the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, the statement read. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social.
'Occupy All Streets' is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.
Most of the reaction on Twitter throughout the day Friday focused on the company deciding not to distribute any of its profits from the shirt to the movement. Among them was fellow hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, whose tweets reflected much of that sentiment:
#ocuppyallstreets, he tweeted around 1:30 p.m. ET, and yes, he spelled it wrong.
Sixteen minutes later, he tweeted, I'm happy w/jay z showing support for #occupywallstreet, this time spelling it right in the hashtag. Lots of kids are learning about #ows.
At 3:41 p.m., after a green juice interlude: damn, my man Jay-Z created a lot of controversy with this one.
And at 3:58, he tweeted a link to a poll: where should the $ go from the sale of Jay's t-shirt?
Results of that poll, as of 6 p.m. and 170 votes, were overwhelmingly in favor of giving all of the money to Occupy Wall Street. Almost 65 percent had selected the option out of a choice of five. Only 6.5 percent said the company should keep the profits.
Jay-Z, it should be noted, is not the first to try to profit from the movement in Zuccotti Park, which is still picking up steam as it nears its two-month mark. According to The Associated Press, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received numerous applications for rights to phrases like Occupy, Occupy DC 2012 and We are the 99 percent.
Jay-Z, however, is not the 99 percent. His music and successful business ventures have firmly cemented him among the 1 percent. Jay-Z Occupied the Throne of Forbes' top Hip-Hop Cash King list, taking in $37 million from May 2010 to May 2011.