Despite a global pandemic, Travis Scott has emerged victorious in 2020. He became the first celebrity since Michael Jordan to nab his own McDonald’s meal which, as described in an internal memo to the company in June, was a play to “better connect with African-American youth as we go forward.”
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According to Vice Media, the launch of the Travis Scott meal, as well as the recent collab with J Balvin, was a possible effort to cover up massive discrimination lawsuits against McDonald’s. Given Travis Scott is a Black celebrity that has hip-hop, a Black art form, on lock, McDonald’s decision to partner with him could be a way at “obfuscating other McDonald’s-related news items” given its success, according to Chin Jou, author of Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food With Government Help.
The first lawsuit was filed at the top of the year accusing the company of having “conducted a ruthless purge” of Black leadership and created “hostile and abusive work environment” for Black executives and owners. In the last year, there was been a drop in Black employees in upper-level positions, according to the suit, dropping from 42 in November to 7 by the time 2019 rolled around. Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, the plaintiffs, said they were demoted from their roles as senior vice presidents of the company in 2018, a decision they said was rooted in race.
A second lawsuit was filed against McDonald’s by a group of 52 Black franchise owners in September, the same month Scott launched his burger, who claim the corporate giant made them deal with “systematic and covert racial discrimination” since the 1980s. This is rooted in allegations that the company had forced these Black franchise owners into opening low-income areas with high crime rates. These locations would have lower sales than the national average and higher overall operational costs. The lawsuit alleged McDonald’s didn’t provide the Black franchise owners the financial support they would white franchise owners.
Though McDonald’s has previously denied these allegations, they did release a statement to XXL this afternoon, saying, “Any claim that McDonald’s collaboration with Travis Scott was launched in response to recent litigation is completely false. We teamed up with Travis—and our newest celebrity partner, J Balvin—because of their love for the McDonald’s brand, their widespread appeal and their loyal following among our younger customers and our crew.”
The rep added, “In regards to the litigation—these allegations fly in the face of everything we stand for as an organization and as a partner to communities and small business owners around the world. Not only do we categorically deny the allegations, but we are confident that the facts will show how committed we are to the diversity and equal opportunity of the McDonald’s System, including across our franchisees, suppliers and employees.”