(CNN) — PepsiCo is ending its relationship with rapper Lil Wayne over what the company calls an “offensive reference to a revered civil rights icon” — 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed nearly 60 years ago.
The rap superstar, featured in the song “Karate Chop” by Future, says: “Beat that p—- up like Emmett Till.”
Till, a 14-year-old black youth, was killed in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. He was beaten to the extent that his face was unrecognizable when his body was discovered. He was identified by a monogrammed ring belonging to his father.
Mountain Dew, a brand of PepsiCo, said Friday its relationship with the rapper would end.
A Mountain Dew spokesman told CNN, “We do not plan any additional work with Lil Wayne moving forward. His offensive reference to a revered civil rights icon does not reflect the values of our brand.”
The spokesman declined to comment on the company’s previous relationship with the artist.
Sarah Cunningham, publicist for Lil Wayne’s record label, Young Money, issued the following statement to CNN: “I can confirm that due to creative differences, we mutually decided to part ways. It was amicable.”
Till, a Chicago teenager who was visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955, was arrested at gunpoint and severely beaten. One of his eyes was gouged before he was killed by a single gunshot to the head. The teen’s body was tied to a large fan before being dumped into a river.
Members of the Till family could not be reached for comment Friday by CNN, but the Rev. Al Sharpton said he has set up a meeting next week between PepsiCo officials and members of the family.
In a statement to CNN, Sharpton said that the situation was a “teaching moment for Lil Wayne, corporate America and the family of Emmett Till … more than a condemnation of any one artist, it is an affirmation of Emmett Till and a call for more sensitivity about what we say and do in our culture.”