MANHATTAN (CN) – Criticizing the dearth of black arbitrators, Jay-Z – embroiled in a dispute over his brand Rocawear – asked a New York judge Wednesday to squeeze the brakes in the case.
Represented by the firm Quinn Emanuel, the Brooklyn-born rap magnate says the American Arbitration Association’s roster of potential arbitrators in the New York for Large and Complex Cases includes more than 200 names. Still they were unable to identify a single black arbitrator with the necessary qualifications to oversee a licensing settlement agreement between Jay-Z and the New York-based Iconix Brand Group.
The Iconix Brand Group hit Jay-Z with a federal complaint in 2017. Having bought certain rights associated with Rocawear apparel for more than $200 million in 2008, Iconix alleged trademark and contract violations related to a crossover line of Roc Nation hats licensed to Major League Baseball and the New Era apparel company.
Jay-Z’s company countersued for breach of implied license, arguing that the 2007 agreement covered Rocawear but not the Roc Nation brand.
In Wednesday’s petition, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Jay-Z says the arbitration proceedings between Jay-Z and Iconix must be suspended for 90 days so that the parties canwork with the American Arbitration Association to include sufficient black candidates who are qualified to adjudicate complex commercial cases.
“[The] AAA’s failure to provide a venire of arbitrators that includes more than a token number of African-Americans renders the arbitration provision in the contract void as against public policy,” the 13-page filing states.
Spiro wrote in the petition that by failing to provide black neutrals with experience in large and complex cases, the American Arbitration Association’s violated the Equal Protection Clause of the New York State Constitution, the New York State Civil Rights Law, New York City Human Rights Law, and the New York Deceptive Practices Act.
Jay-Z is listed in the case by his legal name Shawn Carter, and described as “one of the most successful African-American male entrepreneurs in history.”
The petition says Jay-Z’s attorneys got a list of six people when they pressed the American Arbitration Association to provide the names of “neutrals of color.”
One was Asian-American, another South Asian, and a third Latino, according to the petition. As for the three black candidates, one is a partner at Blank Rome, the law firm that represents Iconix in the underlying arbitration.
Representatives for the American Arbitration Association declined to comment on the petition, citing a policy regarding any arbitrations that it may have administered. Representatives for Iconix did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe ordered the enforcement of Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena to depose Jay-Z in person on the details of his involvement with the Iconix Brand Group as part of the commission’s investigation into possible securities fraud.
In a June 2016 press release announcing exuberant Miami producer DJ Khaled as Rocawear’s newest brand ambassador, Iconix issued a correction regarding previous claims of Jay-Z’s participation in Rocawear.
“Iconix Brand Group would like to clarify that Jay Z is no longer a stakeholder in Rocawear, nor does he own shares in Iconix Brand Group,” the company said. “Iconix fully oversees the marketing, licensing and production of the Rocawear brand.”
In addition to Rocawear, Iconix owns an eclectic licensing portfolio of other fashion brands including London Fog, Ed Hardy, Zoo York and Madonna’s Material Girl line.