The furor over Rick Ross' rape lyric in "U.O.E.N.O." has gone from the Internet to the streets.
Women's rights group UltraViolet staged a protest today outside Reebok's flagship store in New York, demanding the corporate giant rescind their endorsement deal with the Maybach Music boss.
Amid chants of "Reebok drop Rick Ross!" and "Rape is not a joke / Give women hope," a group of approximately 50 protesters dropped off a petition signed by 72,000 people demanding Reebok stop "rewarding a man who brags about raping women."
Shortly before the protest, Ross tweeted an apology stating, "I don't condone rape, apologies for the lyric interpreted as rape."
Fuse asked UltraViolet's co-founder and executive director Shaunna Thomas if Ross' latest apology was acceptable. "No, of course not. That apology exposes one of two things," Thomas tells Fuse. "One: He's feeling a lot of pressure, which is great. And that means people need to keep putting pressure on him to make him understand what the problem is. And the second thing is that he doesn't really get the problem. He did rap about rape. It's not an interpretation. He needs to get to a place where he understands that."
UltraViolet is specifically targeting Reebok because, according to Thomas, the shoe company has given Ross his most lucrative endorsement deal. As for taking on Ross, she called it "an easy decision. When someone who has that big a following feels comfortable rapping a lyric like that, you know we have a problem."
Representatives for Reebok did not respond to Fuse's repeated requests for comment.
Lisa Steglich, a stay-at-home mom who joined UltraViolet for this protest, expressed similar disgust toward Reebok: "They're endorsing him, funding him and backing him." Her view on Ross' recent Twitter apology echoed Thomas' take. "Even the most benign interpretation [of his lyric] is still extremely offensive and outrageous," Steglich said. "He was making fun of drugging a woman and raping her. It's not funny. It's a crime and it's disgusting."
Another protester said it was Ross' half-assed explanation that riled him up in the first place. "I felt his apology missed the point and was upsetting," said Matt Fillare. "Even with all the fervor, it doesn't sound like he heard it or understood it."
Fillare hoped the protest would elicit a more thoughtful apology from Ross. "While it's important to be upset and angry, it's also important to bring him into the fold. I'd like to see him invited to things like this and not vilified," Fillare said. "Nobody is without redemption—he can make up for it."
Thomas said she was skeptical that Ross could produce an adequate apology. "It would depend on him embracing what went wrong here and adopting an allied approach to women, which would mean going on the offensive to defeat rape culture," Thomas says. "We would support him if he would endorse that."
While the protesters were still picketing, Ross followed up his apology with a tweet directed at Reebok and UltraViolet. "Apologies to my many business partners, who would never promote violence against women. @ReebokClassics @ultraviolet" The women's group tweeted back at him, pointing out he still seemed oblivious to the real problem: "We appreciate that you don’t condone rape but what's upsetting is that you're rapping about it & don’t know it. Slipping a woman a drug and 'enjoying' her is rape. #CONSENT #EndRapeCulture”
Last week, Ross told a New Orleans radio show that "there was a misunderstanding with the lyric." Ross defended his line, saying, "The term 'rape' wasn't used. I would never use the term 'rape' in my records." That apology was critiqued by numerous pundits including Talib Kweli, who told Huffington Post that "Rick Ross condoned rape in that song... he should apologize and the apology that he offered was unacceptable."
Ross has yet to respond to UltraViolet's tweet.