The makers of Michael Jordan's underwear are now the target of a racial-discrimination lawsuit. Hanesbrands was sued in New York last week by Yunusa Kenchi after he was fired as creative designer at the company. Kenchi is African American and Muslim.
The firing led Kenchi to reveal what he calls a culture at Hanes of "consistent insults and ridicule from a hostile supervisor," at a company in which "racial improprieties abound." Before his firing, Kenchi claims, he discovered an email exchange between two high-ranking supervisors referring to him stating, "We should go forward with getting this [n-word] out of here and getting [a white employee who had left] back."
What makes these allegations even more shocking is that this is a major national brand with a black man as their main marketer.
"A company this large, dealing with a diverse community, is not taking responsibility. [The emailer] was a designer for the Michael Jordan line of clothing for many years! It goes to show you that even companies with prominent African-American spokespeople can have racist elements at a high level," Kenchi's lawyer, Patrick Boyd, told the Village Voice. Kenchi is seeking damages in excess of $1 million. He started working at the company in 2007.
Hanesbrands responded with a statement:
Hanesbrands Inc. is proud of its diverse worldwide workforce and does not tolerate discriminatory behavior. After allegations emerged of improper conduct in the termination of Mr. Kenchi, Hanesbrands conducted a thorough investigation and found evidence of an offensive attitude and use of language that is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We sincerely regret that the situation arose and are troubled that Mr. Kenchi's termination process may have been tainted by unacceptable attitudes. In lieu of these findings, Hanesbrands took decisive disciplinary steps, including the termination of a supervisor, and made Mr. Kenchi an unconditional offer of employment to return to the company.
If this is true, African Americans should boycott the company and call on Michael Jordan to do the same. But we doubt the man who once said "Republicans buy sneakers, too" would ever do anything that might mess with his money.
Read more at the Village Voice.