NEW YORK – Reebok has ended its relationship with Rick Ross following heavy criticism of lyrics by the rapper considered by some to be pro-rape.
The sneaker brand said in a statement Thursday that "Reebok holds our partners to a high standard and we expect them to live up to the values of our brand. Unfortunately, Rick Ross has failed to do so."
Ross formally apologized for his lyrics on Rocko's song "U.O.E.N.O." in a tweet last week. It came the same day a women's group, UltraViolet, protested outside of one Reebok's stores in Manhattan.
In Rocko's song, Ross raps about giving a woman the drug MDMA, known as Molly, and having his way with her.
"Put Molly all up in her champagne, she ain't even know it, I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it," he says.
The song was released in January, but just recently began getting widespread notice. Women's groups and rape victims have issued petitions.
In his apologetic tweet, Ross said his lyrics were misinterpreted. He said he doesn't condone rape and apologized for lyrics that were "interpreted as rape." A week prior, he said in a radio interview that "there was a misunderstanding with the lyric" and that he didn't use the term "rape."
Ross has appeared in a commercial for the Reebok Classic sneakers. The company says it does not believe that the Grammy-nominated rapper "condones sexual assault," but the company is not happy with how he has handled the situation.
"We are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse," the statement read. "At this time, it is in everyone's best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross."
A message sent to Ross' representative was not immediately returned.
Rocko said in an interview with radio station Hot 97 on Wednesday that he his removing Ross' rap from his song. He said the backlash has "put him a position where I have to change" the song.
UltraViolet said in a statement Thursday that the group is "thrilled to hear that Reebok is joining the fight against rape culture and dropping Rick Ross."
"This sends a strong message that rapping about drugging and raping an unconscious woman is not only morally wrong, but has real consequences," the statement read.
Four of Ross' five albums have reached gold status, including last year's "God Forgives, I Don't," which earned a Grammy nomination for best rap album. His hits include "The Boss" and "Aston Martin Music," and he's collaborated with acts like Kanye West, Drake, John Legend and Nicki Minaj.