Astute businessman and comedian Byron Allen has gained support in his ongoing court battle against Comcast from rapper and activist Michael “Killer Mike” Render and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Both the outspoken hip-hop activist and civil rights group are urging black people to stand with Allen in his $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Comcast, which will be heard in the Supreme Court Nov. 13. Allen also has a similar $10 billion suit against Charter Communications.
Byron filed the multibillion suits back in 2015 and 2016, arguing that Comcast and Charter violated the Civil Rights Act after he unsuccessfully tried for years to get the cable systems to carry his networks, Entertainment Studios, which were available through rival distributors, including Verizon, Dish, and AT&T’s DirecTV. Both Comcast and Charter, however, assert that race was not a factor in their refusal to carry stations under Allen’s production company.
In response to the legal battle, the NAACP released the following statement backing Allen.
In several weeks, the Supreme Court will hear one of the most important civil rights cases to come before it this term. Comcast – the second largest broadcasting and cable television company in the world – is poised to take an unprecedented step. Because of a dispute with a Black businessman, the company has urged the Supreme Court to roll back the crucial protections of one of the nation’s oldest civil rights laws, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
For more than a century, Section 1981 has been used as an important tool to combat race discrimination, particularly for employment discrimination claimants. Throughout the NAACP’s history, standard-bearers of justice like Thurgood Marshall have harnessed the power of Section 1981 to fight various forms of discrimination. Yet now, in a situation that has become all too familiar during this era, an upcoming Supreme Court decision has the potential to reject these lessons of history by rolling back the clock on basic civil rights.
Although the NAACP takes no position on the underlying dispute, we have decided to take the lead on this issue. We urge Comcast to cease its attack on Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866; a bedrock civil rights statute that has been in place for more than 150 years.
Killer Mike is also calling for people of color to rally behind the business leader.
“I’ve watched Byron Allen and how he works since I was a kid. I love his TV shows and how he eventually started programming shows in those late-night slots. He would purchase the time slots that used to be for infomercials, turn around and sell those ads for his shows. Genius!” he said in an exclusive interview with The Grio, a news site owned by Entertainment Studios.
“If Allen is playing fair, and he has the capacity to produce quality programming, why would they not allow him space at Comcast? You can’t say people are not interested—everyone needs the weather,” Killer Mike added in reference to Allen’s acquisition of The Weather Channel.
Killer Mike also expressed his concern on Twitter.
Thanks @tonetalks for informing me about the plight and genius of #ByronAllen. All black folk shud be standing in solidarity with Brother Byron in his fight vs Comcast! Y’all read and lemme know ya thoughts https://t.co/SmF3IUlNIe
— Killer Mike (@KillerMike) September 25, 2019