Killer Mike Demands Black People Stand With Byron Allen In Discrimination Fight Against Comcast Going To The Supreme Court
Atlanta born and social justice-centered, Killer Mike is clear about our responsibility as African Americans to one another. Killer Mike Demands Black People Stand With Byron Allen In Discrimination Fight Against Comcast Going To The Supreme Court
Without a doubt, the rapper/activist believes that as a community, our focus should be one that builds the African American dollar, supports institutions that cultivate Black leadership, and influence Black entrepreneurs to shift culture through deals.
This is especially true in 2019, as the facade of post-racialism that the Obama administration painted fades away, and the potential of a legal decision that could put race relations back at least a century looms.
Comcast and Charter Communications and the U.S. Department of Justice are currently attempting to dismantle the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and deny media mogul Byron Allen (owner of Entertainment Studios) a seat at the table, resulting in a case that goes before the conservative heavy Supreme Court on Nov. 13. Killer Mike first became aware of the case when attorney Antonio Moore broke it down for him.
In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Killer Mike explained his thoughts about the impending Supreme Court review and what other Black people should be doing to ensure our rights won’t be violated.
As a long-time fan of Allen’s, Killer Mike has studied his career for years, even calling him a “genius.”
“I’ve watched Byron Allen and how he works since I was a kid. I love his TV shows and how he eventually started programming shows in those late-night slots. He would purchase the time slots that used to be for infomercials, turn around and sell those ads for his shows. Genius!” says Mike.
As a follower of his work, the rapper understands the usual challenges that Allen has faced over the years as a successful Black entrepreneur. However, he also believes that these challenges must be met with an iron fist.
“If everything does not go as planned in this case, Black people have to pull out of Comcast all together,” says Mike.
“We also have to look at the political parties that aren’t supporting him and pull our support from them. We cannot look at this as if we are only fighting for Byron Allen. This is bigger than that.”
It is bigger than just the Entertainment Studios’ head honcho. This is about precedent, and if the Comcast has their way, it’s a decision that will affect Blacks as a whole.
“The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (the law that Entertainment Studios and Allen are using to argue their case) came about right after slavery ended and before Reconstruction. It was supposed to ensure that Blacks had fair shake in business,” explains Mike.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t always happened. Case in point, there’s only one Bob Johnson, America’s first and only Black billionaire, when there could be many more. Systematic racism has put huge hurdles in the way causing the playing field to be far from equal.
“If Allen is playing fair, and he has the capacity to produce quality programming, why would they not allow him space at Comcast? You can’t say people are not interested- everyone needs the weather,” Killer Mike says of Allen, who acquired the Weather Channel for $300 million last year.
“There is quality control with his networks, so what more do they want.”
We anticipate the answer will become clear during trial, but there are some things that Mike does believe can help this cause outside of the legal system. When we see that Black moguls are not being treated fairly, the community cannot let them fight alone.
“We have to ask ourselves, are we willing to withhold our vote? If he is going to win, the community simply has to stand firm behind him.”
If no one else has Allen’s back, it seems as if the “Ric Flair” emcee does.
Democrats Court Black Voters in Hopes of Picking Off Biden’s Support
African-American voters account for about a quarter of Democratic electorate.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren held rallies at historically black colleges in Atlanta. Former Vice President Joe Biden convened with African-American mayors nearby, while Sen. Kamala Harris met with black business owners. Civil-rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton hosted Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar.
Democratic presidential candidates this week appealed to black voters with renewed urgency in a campaign lacking a clear front-runner with less than three months before Democrats vote in the first nominating contests.
Polling has shown Mr. Biden maintains a commanding lead among black voters, who account for roughly a quarter of the Democratic electorate. His rivals hope to siphon off some of that support, which surveys show is strongest among older African Americans. They also hope to appeal to younger black voters, who are traditionally active in primaries but largely undecided.
“You can’t win without a solid black voter turnout,” Mr. Sharpton said. “It’s the core of the Democratic Party.”
The Democrats’ dueling events with African-American voters in Atlanta this week, where the party held its fifth presidential debate, made clear the candidates are aware of the challenge they face.
Ms. Warren anchored her remarks at historically black Clark Atlanta University around an 1881 strike by black washerwomen in Atlanta.
“I’ve been called persistent in my time— and I love it,” Ms. Warren said. “But understand this: The persistence of generations of black women, and black people in America, up to and including many people in this crowd tonight, is the true story of American persistence.”
Mr. Sanders has made a more concerted effort to reach black voters after losing them to Hillary Clinton by 50 percentage points in the 2016 Democratic primary. His campaign this week detailed a new plan to invest billions of dollars in historically black colleges and universities.
At a rally at Morehouse College, a historically black school from which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. graduated, Mr. Sanders cast himself as a candidate who knew the threat of discrimination, pointing out that his father came to the U.S. from Poland fleeing anti-Semitism.
“A lot of people in my father’s family did not make it out of Poland,” Mr. Sanders said. “They were murdered by the father of white supremacy, Adolf Hitler.”
Josiah Leonard, a 19-year-old freshman at Morehouse, said he was leaning toward voting for Mr. Sanders after hearing his speech.
“He hasn’t felt what it’s like to be a black man,” Mr. Leonard said of Mr. Sanders. “But he knows about racial injustice and mass incarceration.”
A similarly personal effort by Mr. Buttigieg, in which he cited his background as a gay man to empathize with black voters, drew pushback after the debate Wednesday. Sen. Harris of California called the comments “a bit naive,” saying civil-rights activists “know that it is important that we not compare our struggles.”
Mr. Buttigieg told reporters he wasn’t trying to equate the two experiences, adding: “This is a time for solidarity, and anyone who has experienced whatever personal struggle we bring to this fight needs to reach into that as motivation to help others.”
Mr. Biden has taken heat during debates for his positions on race-related issues, from his role in crime legislation in the 1990s to his opposition to federally mandated busing to integrate schools. But his support has remained strong among black Democrats.
On Wednesday, he again stumbled, earning a rebuke from Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris, when he erroneously claimed to have the endorsement of the only black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Ms. Harris, the second black woman elected to the Senate, threw her hands in the air.
“The other one is here,” she said.
Mr. Biden’s slips have prompted at least one more candidate to enter the race with an eye toward making inroads on the former vice president’s coalition.
Deval Patrick, the former two-term governor of Massachusetts, started his campaign last week in a long-shot bid centered in part around the notion that he can cut into Mr. Biden’s African-American support.
Campaigning in South Carolina this week, Mr. Patrick, who is African-American, courted voters in majority-black neighborhoods, where he introduced himself by reflecting on his roots on the South Side of Chicago. At a community event with about a dozen black female business owners, most of the women didn’t know who Mr. Patrick was, but they pulled out their cellphones to document the visit of a presidential candidate.
Asked by The Wall Street Journal about Mr. Biden’s dominance in the state, Mr. Patrick dismissed the polls as “a moment in time.”
“I respect Vice President Biden,” he said. “He has huge name recognition and he’s been a friend of mine. But I think it is also true that in black communities, in South Carolina and elsewhere…people don’t feel seen and heard, if at all, between elections and between campaigns.”
Mr. Patrick is nonetheless learning that mounting a campaign at this late date in the race may prove a herculean task.
His campaign canceled an event Wednesday at Morehouse when only two people came. A photo of a room full of empty chairs circulated on the internet.
Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Slams GM For Not Supporting Black-Owned Media
Musician and entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs criticized General Motors Co. and other companies for failing to support Black-owned media, saying Corporate America could no longer “manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable.”
The rapper, who founded the Revolt cable network in 2013, posted an open letter on that company’s website Thursday calling out companies for spending less than 1% of their advertising on Black-owned media.
He singled out General Motors because it recently cited Revolt as a company it supports. “While Revolt does receive advertising revenue from GM, our relationship is not an example of success. Instead, Revolt, just like other Black-owned media companies, fights for crumbs while GM makes billions of dollars every year from the Black community,” he said.
“Corporations like General Motors have exploited our culture, undermined our power, and excluded Black entrepreneurs from participating in the value created by Black consumers,” said Combs, who first rose to fame in the 1990s as a hip-hop artist and record producer.
In response, GM said that the company is currently meeting with Black-owned media enterprises as the automaker works on its plan to spend more with those properties. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra will be in some of those meetings. Company spokesman Pat Morrissey said that for this year, GM doubled its spending with Black-owned media groups to 2%.
“We will increase our spend with this important segment to 4% in 2022, and will continue to grow our spend thereafter with a target of 8% by 2025,” Morrissey said in an email. “We already have the highest diversity media spend in our industry and we believe this furthers that leadership and commitment.”
Pressure has mounted on companies to diversify their ranks and reform policies since the killing of George Floyd last year sparked nationwide protests. GM and Barra have come under particular scrutiny, with Black media entrepreneurs such as Weather Channel owner Byron Allen saying the company refused to meet with them. They took out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press saying Barra was ignoring them and spending less than 0.5% of the company’s advertising dollars on Black-owned media.
Morrissey said that GM executives have meet with Allen, that Black-owned media “are a vital component of our marketing mix, and we evaluate our spend for media partners through several core metrics, including transparency, innovation, ad quality, audience delivery and brand safety.”
In his letter, Combs also slammed distributors for not carrying Black-owned media brands “in an era where our impact and influence is undeniable.”
Corporate America should invest the same percentage that it gets from the Black community back into Black-owned media, he said.
“If you love us, pay us!” he said. “The time is now! Radical change is the only option. You’re either with us or you are on the other side.”
Byron Allen Goes To Court Again For Black-Owned Media
Byron Allen, the onetime stand-up comic turned all-around media mogul, is a man on a mission.
Allen sued McDonald’s Corp. for $10 billion on Thursday, alleging the fast-food giant is discriminating against Black-owned media companies like his.
The suit is part of a bigger push by the 60-year-old entrepreneur to correct what he says has been decades of bias against Black-owned businesses. Allen says he’ll publicly shame, organize boycotts against and sue companies that don’t commit to supporting African-American-owned media outlets. Executives who stand in his way will see their careers end, he promises, left behind by the march of racial progress.
“Don’t minimize it — this is history,” Allen said during a series of presentations he organized for Black-owned media firms in mid-May. “There are advertisers out there who will say, ‘Oh, we’ve got a Negro problem. How little can we give them to shut up and go away so I can get back to my White-privileged life?’ This isn’t that conversation. We want to effectuate change and eradicate the economic exclusion.”
Allen claims McDonald’s spent just $5 million — 0.3% of its $1.6 billion ad budget — with Black-owned media companies in 2019, and won’t buy spots on his channels. He says the restaurant chain relegates Black media outlets to a lesser tier budget-wise, and pays them less.
Early Thursday morning, before Allen filed his suit, McDonald’s released a four-year plan to increase U.S. spending with companies owned by women and minorities to 10% from 4%. The company said it would “forge new multiyear partnerships with diverse-owned media companies” and would form an advisory board of external marketing and advertising subject-matter experts.
“Together with our owner/operators, we have doubled down on our relationships with diverse-owned partners,” McDonald’s said in a statement responding to the suit, noting the commitments from its Thursday release. “Once we receive the complaint, we will review and respond accordingly.”
George Floyd Jr.’s videotaped murder last year sparked a national reckoning on race, which spread from street protests to corporate America’s C-suites and boardrooms. Even as companies’ commitments to improve diversity and inclusion swelled, Covid-19 exacted a disproportionate economic toll: The pandemic shuttered 41% of Black-owned businesses, nearly twice the national average, according to a study released in August by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In an interview Friday during the Bloomberg Businessweek virtual summit, Byron said he had spoken with 500 companies, 95% of which were embracing his request to increase spending with Black-owned companies. He said the response from McDonald’s has fallen short.
“It’s not enough,” he said. “I can assure you they were very aware of the fact that we were formulating this lawsuit because my attorneys were in touch with their attorney.”
Allen’s in-your-face approach is meant to meet the moment. In March, he and six other Black media executives, including rapper-actor Ice Cube, took out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press accusing General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra of racial bias for not taking a meeting with them.
“Mary, the very definition of systemic racism is when you are ignored, excluded and you don’t have true economic inclusion,” the letter read. General Motors responded that it would significantly increase its spending on Black-owned media, with the company ultimately committing 8% of its budget to such outlets by 2025, an increase from 1% last year. Barra also said she would meet with the media executives.
Another company pledging to get onboard is Verizon Communications Inc. The wireless giant is planning a “Black-Owned Media Summit” on May 24 in partnership with Allen’s company, Allen Media Group.
In a “responsible marketing” plan announced last month after discussions with Allen, Verizon pledged to spend more than 30% of its 2021 ad-production budget with companies owned by women and minorities. The plan also calls for 2% of the company’s overall ad spending to go to Black-owned media companies like Allen’s.
Earlier this month, GroupM, the media-buying arm of advertising giant WPP Plc, said it would “invite” the companies it represents to spend at least 2% of their budgets on Black-owned media. GroupM’s clients include Ford Motor Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Nestle SA.
‘Better ZIP Code’
Allen was only partly pleased with that pledge. “Get it to a better ZIP code,” he said at the Black-owned media event, specifically naming Kirk McDonald, a Black executive at GroupM who was part of the announcement. He also called out executives by name at the media-buying arms of Omnicom Group Inc., Publicis Groupe SA and Horizon Media Inc., saying he was talking to them about similar commitments.
“We’re going to have the whole industry come together,” he said. “This is bigger than ad dollars. Like, you actually think we’re going to go away? There’s no amount of money I won’t spend. Trust me. I’m trained to go a thousand rounds.”
Allen, who got his first big break in show business as a comic on “The Tonight Show” at 18, has built a fortune producing TV programs such as “America’s Court With Judge Ross” and the game show “Funny You Should Ask.” He expanded into TV networks, such as Cars.tv and Pets.tv, and in 2018 bought the Weather Channel for $300 million.
“I wanted to have that Jackie Robinson moment,” he said during an April panel discussion on Black-owned media. “I wanted young Black kids to see us play in the global leagues and not just the Negro leagues.”
His closely held, Los Angeles-based Allen Media Group now owns a dozen networks, including theGrio, aimed at African-Americans, as well as Local Now, a streaming service for news, entertainment and weather. In April, he agreed to buy seven network-affiliated TV stations for $380 million, bringing his total number of those, in markets such as Honolulu and Terre Haute, Indiana, to 23.
Allen’s company was projected to earn as much as $180 million on sales of around $500 million over the next 12 months, according to a September report from Moody’s Investors Service. He has relied on debt to build the business, with almost $1 billion in borrowings before the most recent station transaction. He’s also an active buyer and remodeler of luxury homes, taking out an $83 million loan against his Beverly Hills mansion.
“Management’s financial policy allows for high leverage that is currently above our tolerance,” Moody’s analysts wrote about Allen Media. “We also believe there is high event risk, as management has an appetite for further debt-financed M&A.”
Where discussions about advertising and minorities historically focused on how often they appeared in ads, or on advertiser spending on media viewed by them, Allen has shifted the debate to Black-owned media. That’s a category in which his company may now be the largest. Many of his properties, such as his biggest, the Weather Channel, don’t feature programming specifically for Black viewers.
In 2014, Allen incorporated the National Association of African American Owned Media in California. Three months later, he sued Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, for $20 billion for refusing to carry for his channels, such as Justice.tv and Recipe.tv.
“His lawsuit, that puts this in the public domain for people to talk about, is not something that normally happens,” said Sonya Grier, a professor of marketing at American University in Washington.
The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in March 2020 that Allen had to prove racial discrimination was the reason Comcast wouldn’t pay for those networks. It was a big setback for his case. But three months later, in the wake of the Floyd killing, Comcast settled for undisclosed terms. Allen had also sued Charter Communications Inc., the second-largest cable TV provider, and settled with that company as well in March of this year.
‘About His Wallet’
Allen’s detractors wonder if the executive’s quest is genuinely altruistic or ultimately self-aggrandizing. Among them is John Hope Bryant, chief executive officer of the financial-literacy nonprofit Operation Hope Inc. “This is not about all of us, this is about his wallet,” Bryant said in a Facebook Live video after the Comcast settlement, adding that he’s fine with that aside from the perceived hypocrisy.
“I want to see this largess that has just been cut, shared with all the folks that backed him,” Bryant said of the settlement. “If he does that then I’m more than happy, but I doubt he’s going to do what I’m going to suggest.”
Allen said he can remember clearly the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, in April 1968. He was playing baseball outside his home in Detroit when his mother called him inside. Soon there were soldiers on the streets.
Many years later, he said, he met King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, after buying the screen rights to her 1993 memoir “My Life With Martin Luther King Jr.” King told him that her husband hadn’t been assassinated because of his famous 1963 “I have a dream” speech but because of a later one, in which he said the struggle for civil rights must include economic equality.
“The hair went up on my arms,” Allen recalled at a March event sponsored by the Los Angeles Business Journal, “and I’ve changed my life forever.”
Black-Owned Media Collective Launches To Help Brands Meet New Ad Commitments
Group Black Inc. also intends to invest some proceeds in Black-owned media properties.
Group Black Inc., a collective aimed at deepening the pipeline of Black-owned media companies, launched Tuesday with an ad-spending target of $75 million from a WPP PLC unit.
The new collective and business accelerator seeks to attract ad spending from marketers that are trying to diversify where they advertise.
Group Black aims to advise advertisers and agencies on possible media plans with its members, which include Essence Communications Inc., the publisher of Essence magazine, which focuses on Black women; Holler Technologies Inc., which specializes in stickers and GIFs for digital messages and posts; esports startup PlayVS and news companies Shade Room LLC and Baller Alert Inc.
The new collective also plans to invest a portion of its revenue to buy equity stakes in Black-owned media companies.
GroupM, a media-buying company owned by advertising giant WPP, said it aims to spend $75 million of clients’ budgets through Group Black, a move that it said could help marketers find new media partners and more effectively reach consumers.
GroupM has previously called on its clients to spend at least 2% of their ad budgets on diverse-owned media.
GroupM clients participating in Group Black include Target Corp. , according to the companies.
Advertisers including General Motors Co. , McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola Corp. are pledging to increase their advertising in Black-owned media amid pressure on U.S. businesses to counter racial inequality following nationwide protests over the police murder of George Floyd in 2020.
McDonald’s said in May that its spending with Black-owned media would rise to 5% of its national advertising budget by 2024 from 2% now.
The fast-food chain is also facing a lawsuit from companies owned by media mogul Byron Allen, accusing it of discriminating against Black-owned media companies.
McDonald’s called those allegations unfounded. “As we defend against this lawsuit, we will continue to collaborate with diverse-owned partners that keep the brand at the center of culture and create deeper relationships with our customers, crew and employees,” the company said.
Ad buyers have said that sometimes, there are challenges to spending more with Black-owned media, which typically have a much smaller reach than the publicly traded digital and media giants that collect the lion’s share of ad spending.
“The reality is the Black-owned media industry is nascent, it’s underfunded and the pipeline is so small,” said Travis Montaque, chief executive, director and co-founder of Group Black, as well as founder and chief executive of Holler.
Group Black’s investments in Black-owned companies, through an accelerator called Group Black Ventures, are partly meant to expand the pipeline of attractive channels for advertisers, Mr. Montaque said.
“A lot of these properties have been underinvested in for so long that they’re not seeing the opportunities out there that the general market sees,” he said.
Kirk McDonald, chief executive of GroupM’s North American operations, said clients realize that audiences aren’t homogenous and the media-buying company wants to “improve experiences for consumers and results for brands.”