The Vice report cites two historians, Marcia Chatelain, and Chin Jou, who spoke on the company's history regarding race, with the piece suggesting the partnership was launched in response to recent discrimination lawsuits filed by former employees. African American studies professor Marcia Chatelain, who works at Georgetown University, said there is "no question" that the company launched the collaborations to "try to shore up brand recognition and brand loyalty for McDonald's on the part of consumers of color." The company has denied the allegations regarding the collabs, and the lawsuits filed against it.
One lawsuit was filed by two former executives at McDonald's this January, with the individuals accusing the company of conducting "a ruthless purge" of Black employees in management positions. The employees further alleged that McDonald's fostered a "hostile and abusive work environment" for any Black executives and franchise owners at the company. The number of Black employees in such positions dropped from 42 in 2014 to seven in 2019, the lawsuit added.
The second discrimination suit of the year was filed by 52 Black franchise owners, whom have claimed McDonald's engaged in "systematic and covert racial discrimination" over multiple decades. In the suit, the franchise owners alleged the company pushed to open locations in low-income, high-crime areas in which employee turnover is at its highest. In addition, they have claimed Black franchisees had not received appropriate financial support and garnered harsher internal reviews than their white peers.
A statement from McDonald’s USA shared with Complex reads: "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."
The statement continues: "In regards to the litigation—these allegations fly in the face of everything we stand for as an organization 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."
Additionally, a source tells Complex the Travis Scott and McDonald's partnership was finalized prior to both lawsuits being filed.
Last week, it was reported that McDonald's Corp. sales increased 4.6 percent in July, August, and September when compared to the same period in 2019 with the company attributing the rise to their collaboration with Scott. The partnership with McDonald's and Scott also included multiple mech collection drops that quickly sold out.