Attorneys for George Floyd’s daughter and her mother have sent rapper Kanye West a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that he refrain from commenting publicly about Floyd’s death as he did recently.
Over the weekend, the hip-hop podcast “Drink Champs” released an interview with the rapper and fashion designer, who now goes by Ye, in which he questioned the cause of Floyd’s death, suggesting it was due to fentanyl use and not by Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9½ minutes and was convicted of murder. Chauvin also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Chauvin’s knee “wasn’t even on his neck like that,” Ye said. The interview is no longer available on the “Drink Champs” YouTube page, and one of the hosts of the podcast, rapper N.O.R.E., apologized Monday to the Floyd family amid backlash.
The letter — dated Tuesday and sent on behalf of Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, and her mother, Roxie Washington, by the Witherspoon Law Group, which has offices in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Texas — said Washington and Gianna “are very distressed and hurt by the allegations” Ye made. It is addressed to Ye and an attorney who told NBC News he is not representing Ye in this matter.
“Mr. Floyd’s cause of death is well-settled through evidence presented in courts of law during the criminal and civil trials that were the result of his untimely and horrific death,” the letter said. “Nevertheless, you have maliciously made statements that are inaccurate and unfounded, causing damage to Mr. Floyd’s estate and his family.”
The letter demands that Ye, his attorneys, employees, agents, partners, associates and representatives “refrain from publishing or causing to be published any other audio, video, statement, post, etc. regarding” Floyd, his estate, his family and the circumstances surrounding his death, including, but not limited to, his manner of death. It also demands that Ye “immediately cease and desist, and remove the ‘Drink Champs’ interview and all similar statements” regarding Floyd from every social media site, platform or medium.
Representatives for Ye did not immediately return requests for comment.
The letter threatens legal action if the demands are not met.
Ye has said his claims were supported by a documentary titled “The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of BLM” by conservative commentator Candace Owens. Ye and Owens drew criticism this month after they wore “White Lives Matter” T-shirts to his collection at Paris Fashion Week. The Anti-Defamation League has called the phrase, which originated in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, hate speech. Ye, who once suggested slavery was a choice, was blocked from posting on Twitter and Instagram about a week ago over antisemitic posts that the social networks said violated their policies.
Prominent civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt previously told NBC News that he had been contacted Sunday by Floyd’s brother, Philonise, about whether legal action can be taken to prevent Ye from repeating debunked claims about Floyd’s death. Merritt said he is also looking into whether Owens can be sued on similar grounds.
The medical examiner who ruled Floyd’s death a homicide testified during Chauvin’s state trial that while Floyd’s heart disease and use of fentanyl contributed to his death, police officers’ restraint of his body and compression of his neck were the primary causes.
Chauvin and three other officers, who were also charged in state and federal court, encountered Floyd on May 25, 2020, outside a convenience store where he was alleged to have used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Video of Floyd’s death recorded by bystanders spurred global protests against racism and police brutality.
Chauvin was sentenced in June 2021 to 22 ½ years in prison after he was convicted of second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced in July 2022 to just more than 20 years for violating Floyd’s civil rights. His federal and state sentences are to be served concurrently.
Diana Dasrath contributed.