Joe Van Gogh cuts ties with Duke after two employees are fired over rap music

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Friday, May 11, 2018
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Two coffee shop workers fired after playing vulgar music at the Duke campus location.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Joe Van Gogh coffee shop is cutting ties with Duke University after an incident last week that led to the firing of two employees.

The firings got nationwide attention, even prompting rapper Young Dolph to respond.

That's because the firings were a result of one of his songs being played inside the coffee shop.

It all stemmed from a customer complaint from Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs at Duke University.

Moneta said that when he walked into the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop last Friday, he was "was shocked to hear" lyrics that he felt were "inappropriate."

The lyrics were from the song "Get Paid" by Young Dolph.

Two employees were fired a short time after the incident. Moneta told ABC11 that, while the employees made a poor decision, he did not demand their firing.

In a statement he said:

"Last week, I went into Joe Van Gogh as I often do to purchase some items. I was shocked to hear lyrics playing quite loudly I found quite inappropriate for a working environment that serves children among others. 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. I then contacted the director of Duke Dining to express my concerns and that was the end of my involvement.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. 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 Joe Van Gogh management. How Joe Van Gogh responded to this matter was solely at their discretion."

On Friday, the owner of Joe Van Gogh, Robbie Roberts, said he was cutting ties with Duke University.

"I believe it's the right thing to do to preserve Joe Van Gogh's brand independence without conditions," he said in a statement. "I have extended jobs to our entire team at our Duke on-campus store, either at one of our off-campus locations or at our production offices."

Roberts also said he reached out to the fired employees so that they can re-join the company.

"During the past several days, I have reflected on our core values and what I want to embrace and advocate as a small business owner," he said. "Joe Van Gogh has always been about bringing people together, not driving them apart. We are open to all people and we value people over our profits. We always have. For years, we have nurtured these values to the communities we serve, specifically through the strengths and talents of our staff of baristas."