Vote on the ‘50 Cent’ ethical question

Hip hop artist 50 Cent was on an international tour in December 2005 when his Toronto concert raised a storm of controversy. There had already been 48 gun-related deaths in Toronto in 2005, and, with his controversial lyrics and image, a public debate occurred about whether or not 50 Cent, a convicted criminal, should be permitted to perform in Canada.

Should the local promoter have been involved in marketing the Toronto show? This is the ethical question up for discussion and debate Friday to kick off the launch this weekend of York’s new Canadian Business Ethics Research Network (CBERN). The debate starts at 7pm in the Robert R. McEwen Auditorium in the Seymour Schulich Building and ends with an audience vote on the issue.

To participate in this lively event,  reserve tickets by sending an e-mail to Put "Case Registration" in the subject line and type your name in the message box.

CBERN is a national research network led by York Professor Emeritus Wesley Cragg (right). With $2.1 million from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Cragg (see the Feb 16, 2005 issue of YFile) has hired staff, expanded the Web site and developed a database to support research across Canada into business ethics over the next seven years. Cragg says the network/cluster grants represents "a significant change in direction for SSHRC. In the past, specific projects were funded, says Cragg, but clusters/networks (like CBERN) are different as they are provide support for researchers who are working on projects.

Friday’s ‘50 Cent’ question is the kind of complex business ethics issue researchers might tackle.

While not the sum of his stage presence nor reflective of his total message, 50 Cent’s lyrics and public image incorporate themes of violence, street life, gangs and urban crime. Like a number of other hip hop artists, the controversial 50 Cent is inspired by his own life, which lends authenticity to his lyrics.

In the wake of dozens of gun-related deaths in Toronto that year, news of the upcoming concert fueled a heated public debate. Should 50 Cent be allowed to perform in Toronto? Should he be refused entry to Canada, given his criminal record and the nature of his music? Would the concert encourage violent and misogynistic behaviour? Was there racial bias involved? What about freedom of speech? Who has the right to censor whom and why? Should the Toronto promoter decline the invitation to do the marketing for the concert on ethical grounds?

The case presenter is Neil Shankman, CEO of REMG Entertainment Corp. Panelists will include York philosophy Professor Gerard Naddaf; Pat Bradshaw, an organization behaviour professor in York’s Schulich School of Business; Rinaldo Walcott of OISE/U of T, whose research has focused on the hip hop phenomenon; and James Keast, editor of Exclaim!, a leading Canadian magazine on contemporary popular music.