The NAACP Image Awards is being pressured by conservative activist group Project 21 to drop “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett from its list of nominees, saying it would be “a slap in the face” to civil rights heroes.
Smollett — who was arrested on the felony charge of filing a false police report claiming to be the victim of a hate crime — is currently nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
“It would be nothing short of a slap in the face to those civil rights heroes for the NAACP to now honor Smollett with an Image Award while he’s suspected of using symbols of racial barbarism — including a noose — to shamelessly advance and promote his career,” Project 21’s Jerome Hudson said in a statement.
The black leadership network has a history of keeping tabs on the NAACP Image Awards. In 2004, they criticized the NAACP for not rescinding disgraced singer R. Kelly’s nomination for outstanding album while he was under indictment for child pornography allegations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Everyone has a reason to be disappointed with Jussie Smollett right now,” Project 21 co-chairman Council Nedd II said. “Smollett is charged with perpetrating a hate crime hoax that wasted valuable police resources and stoked racial tensions nationwide. It hurt our nation’s ability to heal its racial wounds and made the NAACP’s civil rights goals harder to achieve. The NAACP needs to make it clear that his behavior is not OK by removing him from contention for an Image Award.”
Representatives for the NAACP’s Image Awards and Smollett did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s requests for comment.
On Thursday, Smollett plead not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct in a Chicago court, according to the Chicago Tribune. The actor was indicted on March 8 after being accused of lying to police about a Jan. 29 incident in which he claims to have been randomly attacked by two men shouting racial and homophobic slurs in his Chicago neighborhood.
Smollett’s next court date is April 17, according to CBS Chicago.
The NAACP Image Awards will take place March 30 in Hollywood.