The men in suits had a message for rapper Meek Mill: He was not allowed to enter the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas.
"We are private property, at this time. With the information we have, we're refusing to do business with you. We have the right to do that," a hotel security staffer said during the incident Saturday. Earlier, another staffer said Mill would be arrested for "trespassing" if he were to enter.
"You're telling me I will be arrested if I don't leave. If I walk upstairs and I get something to eat, I'll be arrested. For what? For being a rapper?" Mill shot back in a tense video recorded by his associate.
In the video, posted to Twitter and Instagram on Saturday and paired with Mill's accusation that the incident was because he is a black rapper, the hotel staff do not offer a reason Mill was blocked from entry. The hotel later said it was because of overcrowding in a hotel club.
"I'm not accusing you of doing anything, man," a hotel staffer said. "I wasn't there, I don't know. This is way bigger than me. Obvious you're somebody."
Then, the staffer asked for Mill's associate to stop recording. "No, absolutely not," the associate said. The staff member then noted Nevada's trespassing statutes.
Mill will file a lawsuit against the Cosmopolitan this week alleging racial discrimination in violation of state and federal laws, his attorney Joe Tacopina told The Washington Post on Tuesday. He criticized the hotel's defense of overcrowding as the reason Mill was turned away.
Mill was at the hotel's main lobby entrance, Tacopina said, not at the club, and was on a list to see his friend DJ Mustard perform.
"I am certain no white entertainers or white people were denied access," Tacopina said. "He is a well-known African American hip-hop artist. That is what this is about."
There was mention by hotel staff about a previous encounter at the hotel during the exchange, Tacopina said, but the details were unclear. Mill said on Twitter he had once been at the hotel with Jay-Z but said it occurred "without incident." Tacopina said that was about five years ago.
In a letter sent to the hotel's general counsel, Anthony Pearl, Tacopina alleged a pattern of racial discrimination.
"We have learned that the Cosmopolitan maintains a list of African American recording artists who should be denied access for no other reason than their culture and skin color," Tacopina said.
On Tuesday, the Cosmopolitan did not address questions about the existence of such a list and provided a statement attributed to no one within the organization.
"The recent situation regarding Meek Mill related to a matter of security, not race, and any reports citing otherwise are false," the hotel said. "Accordingly, when Marquee Dayclub was contacted in advance of Meek Mill's arrival, security staff clarified that he would not be granted access because of capacity issues, in accordance with both club and resort policy."
Police had been called earlier to deal with the overcrowding, the hotel said. But it was not clear why the staff speaking with Mill in the video did not provide that information.
"If you come from our culture you should never step foot in the cosmopolitan hotel they just really racist as hell," Mill said on Twitter later Saturday. "Something really has to be done in Las Vegas what they doing to black people!"
Wosny Lambre, a staff writer at the Atlantic, quoted Mill's tweet. "It's tough to be black, man," Lambre wrote.
"And they wonder why some of us lose our cool so quick," Mill replied. "We be tired of being treated this way!"
Mill, whose given name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, has become a symbol for criminal justice reform after he was arrested for minor offenses, including performing a dirt bike wheelie without a helmet, that counted as a parole violation following drug and gun charges at age 19.
He served eight months then, but was sentenced again in 2017 for two to four years in prison after the dirt bike incident and a separate altercation. He spent four months in jail before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered that he be granted bail.
"What's happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day," Jay-Z wrote in the New York Times after the 2017 sentencing.