Sean “Diddy” Combs’ lawsuit against liquor brand Diageo will continue. On Thursday, a judge rejected the alcohol company’s motions to either dismiss or send the lawsuit to private arbitration, according to Billboard.
The case will continue in New York state court with a trial open to the public. The ruling — reportedly done by the judge after 90 minutes of hearing both sides — marks the musician’s first win in the case.
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“I’m fighting for fair and equal treatment for everyone,” Combs said in a statement to Rolling Stone on Friday. “This isn’t just about me. I look forward to continuing this fight in court. We all deserve the same 24 hours.”
Meanwhile, a Diageo spokesperson said they were “disappointed” with the judge’s decision.
“It is important to underscore that this is not a ruling on the merits of the claims, which we maintain are false and baseless,” the spokesperson told Billboard. “We are currently considering all legal options.”
When Combs filed the lawsuit back in May, he accused Diageo of “discriminatory treatment.” Combs believed Diageo had failed to invest resources into Ciroc and DeLeon, and only seemed interested in marketing them to “urban” consumers. Combs also claimed that Diageo’s President of Reserve and New Business Stephen Rust admitted to him that “race was part of the reason Diageo limited the neighborhoods where the Combs brand were distributed.”
Diageo has denied the allegations and accused Combs of making “false and reckless allegations, including numerous defamatory and disparaging accusations of racism on the part of Diageo and certain of its senior executives.” In late June, Diageo ended its business relationship with Combs.
Parts of the lawsuit that were previously redacted were made public earlier this summer and obtained by Rolling Stone: Combs claimed that Ciroc and DeLeon were regularly described as “urban brands” within the Diageo portfolio. Despite Combs’ alleged efforts to grow Cisco into a “billion-dollar brand that had widespread appeal,” an internal Diageo presentation allegedly still referred to the vodka as an “urban African American brand tied to one personality.”
Combs even claimed Diageo “proposed downplaying” his connection to Ciroc, “with the goal of rolling back its ‘image of being an African-American brand.’”
The original lawsuit included the claim that Combs frequently flagged “specific examples of matters that were racially insensitive, Diageo ignored him and, worse, repeated the same racially-charged example.” The example given (originally redacted) involved the alleged process that went into launching Ciroc’s watermelon flavor. Per the suit, Combs told Diageo it needed to be “careful about ‘watermelon’ with a brand that it consistently characterized as an ‘urban African American brand.’”
In a statement shared with Rolling Stone in July, a Diageo spokesperson said, “It is baffling to us that Mr. Combs is criticizing brand marketing and promotion for Ciroc and DeLeon — the very efforts he led. Under the Ciroc agreement, Mr. Combs was solely responsible for brand marketing, and his personally-owned media agency was the marketing agency of record for DeLeon.”
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