Jay-Z & NFL-Endorsed Charity Responds To Backlash For Cutting Off Teenagers' Dreadlocks
People have been coming for Jay-Z left and right since Roc Nation announced its partnership with the NFL. Aside from Roc Nation coordinating the league's entertainment programming, the deal also entailed a social justice initiative called Inspire Change. With the regular season's kickoff, Inspire Change launched its first project of making donations to various nonprofit organizations. Considering the great skepticism that was already surrounding this deal, people did their research into the organizations that would receive funding and managed to dig up some disturbing information about one of them, Crushers Club.
Crushers Club - based in Chicago - aims to be "the strongest alternative to gangs" and "arm young people with the support and skills they need to restore their lives and improve their neighborhood." After Crushers Club was announced as the recipient of a $200,000 grant, two photos circulated social media of the organization's founder, Sally Hazelgrove (a white woman), cutting off the dreadlocks of two black teens, claiming that this was "symbolic of change" and a step towards "a better life" for the young men. Hazelgrove received great backlash for these posts, but so did Jay-Z and the NFL, as they claimed this problematic organization was "hand-selected and vetted". This oversight seemed to confirm the arguments that many were making against Jay-Z for partnering with the NFL when it has never shown a true commitment to confronting racial issues.
Hazelgrove responded to the criticism by explaining that she had been asked to cut the young men's dreads and had not thought that deeply about the matter. “Out of 500 youth going through our doors I cut two young men’s hair because they asked me to and we are a family structure and so I did it and didn’t really think about it after that," Hazelgrove stated. "I tweeted about it without much thought. It’s hair. But I regret it now and I promise you I will not be doing that again if asked….The hatred and accusations from this took me by surprise. The backlash has been hard to be honest.” She also had to backpedal on her use of the phrase "All Lives Matter" in a now-deleted tweet.
One of the teens pictured, named Kobe, also spoke out about the incident, confirming that he had in fact requested for Hazelgrove to do this and was grateful she did. “I cut my hair like three years ago, that was something I wanted to do,” Kobe, 19, said in the video. “I was tired of it, tired of gangbanging, tired of messing up. Now I’m a changed young man. Trying to see bigger and better dreams.”
Despite all the disapproval, the NFL and Roc Nation have not commented on the incident and no funding has been withdrawn from Crush Cutters.