Duke official's complaint about rap music gets 2 coffee shop employees fired: reports

A Duke University official who just last month tweeted about the importance of freedom of expression is now under fire after his complaints about rap music at a campus coffee shop led to the firing of two of the shop’s employees.

The complaints by Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president for student affairs, were reportedly triggered by the song “Get Paid,” by Young Dolph, the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., reported.

Moneta told the newspaper in an email that he was particularly concerned about a song lyric that says, “I f---ed her up real good.”

"I expressed my objections to the staff with whom I’ve always had a cordial relationship. I insisted on paying for my purchase and left the store,” Moneta wrote about his Friday visit to the Joe Van Gogh shop. “I then contacted the director of Duke Dining to express my concerns and that was the end of my involvement.”

He then added: “To those who feel that I’ve flipped on my positions on free expression, I say this: The artist who wrote, recorded and performed the music is absolutely entitled to do so, however offensive I might find the lyrics.”

“To those who feel that I’ve flipped on my positions on free expression, I say this: The artist who wrote, recorded and performed the music is absolutely entitled to do so, however offensive I might find the lyrics.”

- Larry Moneta, Duke University vice president of student affairs

Nevertheless, shop baristas Britini Brown and Kevin Simmons both found out this week that they had been fired, the News & Observer reported.

According to Indy Week, Brown was working the cash register that day, and offered to let Moneta have a muffin for free after he complained about the music. Brown said she turned off the song immediately when Moneta complained, the website reported.

Simmons told Indy Week that Moneta appeared to be verbally harassing Brown about the matter.

“’Harrassing’ is definitely the word I would use,” Simmons told the website.

“’Harrassing’ is definitely the word I would use.”

- Kevin Simmons, former employee at Joe Van Gogh coffee shop

Moneta claimed he bore no responsibility for the employees losing their jobs.

“The employees who chose to play the song in a business establishment on the Duke campus made a poor decision which was conveyed to the JVG management,” Moneta wrote in his email. “How they responded to the employees’ behavior was solely at their discretion.”

On April 27, the News & Observer reported, Moneta had tweeted in defense of the First Amendment. “Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors,” he wrote.

Editor's Note: After this story was published, Robbie Roberts, owner of the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop, issued the following statement to Fox News:

"Joe Van Gogh apologizes to our employees, customers and community for how we handled a situation involving our Duke University store. As you have read, it is true that Joe Van Gogh is a contractor to Duke. We attempted to understand Duke’s position in this case, but we should have taken a different approach in making personnel decisions. As the owner of the business, I take full responsibility for Joe Van Gogh’s actions. I apologize to all of the people directly involved and those who have been touched or offended, of which there are many. We are taking steps to remedy this matter, but all company personnel issues are private and will remain private. Again, my truly sincere apologies."

Duke University responded to Roberts' statement: "We appreciate Mr. Roberts’ statement and his commitment to remedy the matter with the individuals involved, and regret the pain this incident caused to those who look to Duke to uphold the highest values of fairness and equity to all members of our community."