Billboard advertising company Lamar has come under fire after rejecting two billboards designed by Jay-Z’s Team ROC that featured the names of three people killed by the same police officer.
WISN-12 News reports that the multiple members of Milwaukee’s Common Council have released a statement condemning Lamar’s decision to not run the billboards. Team ROC, the social justice division of ROC Nation, submitted two versions of the billboard to Lamar. The first read “Alvin Cole, Jay Anderson, Antonio Gonzales — they did not deserve to die. Officer Mensah must be held accountable,” while the second simply stated, “They did not deserve to die. Police officers shouldn’t murder innocent people.” Both billboards were critical of Officer Joseph Mensah, the police officer involved in the shooting deaths of Cole, Anderson and Gonzales.
“With Milwaukee playing a prominent role in peaceful protests featuring people from all backgrounds and races, calling for justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as for dozens of other Black and brown people who have been killed by police officers, it is highly disturbing to learn that a local billboard advertiser has rejected socially important ads relevant to the Black Lives Matter movement,” the Council’s joint statement read.
Team ROC attorney Jordan Siev told ABC-12 that the reason Lamar gave them for rejecting the proposal was that “it could have an effect on a future action.” Sieve said. Sieve pointed out that the reason given is not listed on Lamar’s copy acceptance policy as grounds for denial.
“The billboard copy from Team Roc was vetted through our usual copy acceptance process and rejected on the basis that we do not post copy concerning potential crimes, unless there has been a judicial determination of guilt,” Lamar Advertising Communications Director Allie McAlpin told WISN-12 in an email.
Sieve and the Common Council found the reason given for the rejection odd. “At this important time, we are asking for an explanation of any policies in place at Lamar to vet which ads are OK and which ones are not,” the statement read. “What is the standard in the industry for ads that are deemed too ‘controversial’ to be displayed? Are all of the ads being examined equally, fairly, and with the same criteria, and are they being reviewed free of unconscious bias?
“The only logical conclusion that we can reach from this is; despite what their copy acceptance policy says — that they are looking to protect people’s First Amendment rights — they’re, in fact, engaged in an act of censorship here because they’re afraid of a controversial billboard or message,” Sieve added.