The NFL, Roc Nation and a lesser known Chicago nonprofit organization have received swift scrutiny after old tweets and photos from the nonprofit resurfaced this week.
On Thursday, the Twitter account @RzstProgramming shared old posts from the account for Crushers Club, showing its founder, Sally Hazelgrove, a white woman, cutting the locs off of two young Black men in 2016.
In one since-deleted post, Hazelgrove reportedly wrote: “And another Crusher let me cut his dreads off! It’s symbolic of change and their desire for a better life!”
Many on Twitter slammed the post for its suggestion that cutting off locs is somehow synonymous with a “better life,” citing a history of Black hair discrimination and racist beliefs that natural Black hairstyles are linked with violence.
Thursday’s post came after TMZ reported that Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation and the NFL — via their new partnership and social justice initiative, Inspire Change — will donate $200,000 to two organizations, including Crushers Club, which says it aims to empower at-risk youth in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.
The Twitter account @RzstProgramming on Friday joined the chorus of people voicing their renewed skepticism that Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL would adequately tackle social justice issues.
According to screenshots of since-deleted posts, the Crushers Club Twitter account had once tweeted “ALL LIVES MATTER” in 2016 in response to the fatal shootings of five Dallas police officers. Last year, the organization tweeted a request for President Donald Trump to come to Chicago to help fight gang violence, among other posts.
Neither Roc Nation or the NFL responded to requests for comment.
Hazelgrove told HuffPost on Friday that she never intended for the old tweets to come off as “insensitive.”
She said the young men in the photos had asked her to cut their hair in an effort to “rebrand” themselves, and that one of those men, whose photo was widely circulated, wanted a “new identity” because his life was in danger from “engaging in gang activity.”
“I tweeted it without a lot of forethought, to be honest, so I understand how that could be interpreted as insensitive,” she said.
“I have biracial children myself,” she later added.
When asked about how the Crushers Club’s post drew a troubling connection to incidents of Black hair discrimination, Hazelgrove replied: “I do not really have any comment on that, we do not have any policy regarding hair. We don’t even discuss hairstyles to be perfectly honest.”
Hazelgrove later stated that the tweet using “All Lives Matter” — a slogan criticized for undermining the Black Lives Matter movement — was intended to focus on inclusivity, and that she supports Black lives. She said she doesn’t “endorse anyone’s policies,” with regards to the old Trump tweet, and claimed that she has previously reached out to other elected officials, such as former President Barack Obama and former Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel.
On Friday, Roc Nation retweeted a video from one of the men seen getting their locs cut by Hazelgrove in 2016. He said in the video that he cut his hair three years ago because it was something he “wanted to do.”
“I was tired of gang banging, tired of messing up, now I’m a changed young man,” he added.
Acclaimed director Ava DuVernay criticized the 2016 photos earlier on Friday.
“I’d like to have a conversation with you and those young people about dreads and desires and dreams,” she tweeted to Crushers Club. “About dreads and ‘a better life.’ Shame on anyone supporting this full-on nonsense.”
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