Artist News Brands & Merch Business News Legal

McDonald’s denies Travis Scott partnership aimed to divert attention from racial discrimination lawsuits

By | Published on Tuesday 13 October 2020

Travis Scott's McDonald's meal

McDonald’s has denied that partnerships with Travis Scott and now J Balvin are an attempt to distract public attention away from two racial discrimination lawsuits that have been filed against the company.

Last month, the fast food chain announced that it was launching a month-long partnership with Scott, which would see its US restaurants sell a meal designed by the rapper, as well as various pieces of merchandise. At the time, Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flatley said that the firm had decided to team up with Scott because people under the age of 34 are “becoming more and more challenging for brands to reach” and “he just has an incredible audience”.

However, as a second partnership with Latin star J Balvin was announced, Vice published an article suggesting that these deals were designed cynically to divert attention away from recent accusations of corporate racism made against the McDonald’s business.

The first such lawsuit was filed in January by two black executives at the company, who said that – under the leadership of former CEO Steve Easterbrook – McDonald’s had intentionally reduced the number of black people in leadership roles, forced out black franchisees, and lost African America customers.

Easterbrook replaced the company’s first black CEO, Don Thompson, in 2015, after which, the lawsuit claimed, black people in senior roles at the company dropped from 42 to seven over the course of his time at the top. He was then replaced as CEO in December last year by Chris Kempczinski, who is also named as a defendant.

The second lawsuit, filed in September, just as the Scott partnership was announced, is related to the first, listing 52 black McDonald’s franchisees as plaintiffs. They claim that the company intentionally pushed them to open restaurants in economically depressed and high-crime areas where they incurred higher operating costs, frequent employee turnover and lower sales than in other locations. The aim, it is claimed, was to set them up to fail, so that they would leave the business.

Those who refused to open restaurants in less desirable locations, the lawsuit then alleges, were refused financial support and subjected to harsher internal reviews than their white counterparts, and therefore pushed out that way.

McDonald’s denies all the accusations in both lawsuits, and in a statement to Vice yesterday said: “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”.

Addressing the litigation specifically, the statement goes on: “These allegations fly in the face of everything we stand for as an organisation 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”.

In case you wondered, Scott’s signature meal was a beef quarter pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce; medium fries with BBQ sauce; and a Sprite.

Obviously there’s not much room for creativity in a McDonald’s order, but Balvin’s is even less imaginative. If you want to eat like him, you’ll get a standard Big Mac, medium fries and an Oreo McFlurry. Not even a drink. You could order a drink to go with it, but then you wouldn’t be able to feel like you’re dining like J Balvin. Balvin only drinks water from the Krusty Krab.