Russell Simmons Defends Jay-Z’s ‘Occupy All Streets’ Shirts

Last Tuesday (November 8 ) Jay-Z showed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, when he wore a Rocawear T-shirt bearing the tagline “Occupy All Streets” at the New York City stop on his Watch the Throne with Kanye West. A glowing endorsement from Def Jam’s founding father Russell Simmons made its rounds on the web shortly afterwards, but controversy about profits on the shirts prompted Rocawear to pull the line off the market (at least temporarily). Since then, Russell Simmons has been outspoken in his defense of Rocawear and Jay-Z on Twitter.

Jay-Z’s clever “Occupy All Streets” shirts–priced at $22 a pop–seemed to capture the energy of the protests (against the financial powers that be) but Gawker reported that Hov didn’t intend to support the movement financially. In a statement, a spokesperson from Rocawear told Gawker, “We have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement,” which caused critics to question the sales of the shirt.

Russell Simmons responded to questions about the shirts’ sales on Twitter, writing, “No one ever said the proceeds were not going to the cause that’s medias spin.” “Fyi There has never been a statement issued that said rockawear or jay z will keep profits from #occupywallstreet tee shirts”

Simmons’ political director, Michael Skolnik, also penned a blog entry on Global Grind addressing the issue. Skolnik, who snapped the photo of Jay-Z backstage at MSG on Tuesday night, had this to say: Jay NEVER said that they weren’t going to give the money away; Rocawear said they just weren’t sure where yet,” he wrote. “I challenge the media to spend as much time as they have on the made-up controversy about the sale of a Rocawear t-shirt to the real issue that there is a fast growing percentage of our population that can’t even afford a t-shirt.”