Florida Memorial University Receives $100K Donation From Controversial NFT Collection – Miami New Times

On December 3, a press release announced that an NFT collection called Jungle Freaks — a Pennsylvania-based enterprise consisting of 10,000 zombie NFTs (AKA non-fungible tokens) hand-drawn by former Hustler magazine cartoonist George Trosley — had donated $100,000 generated from art sales to Florida Memorial University (FMU), South Florida’s only historically Black university at risk of losing its accreditation owing to a growing list of financial issues.

A photo attached to the release features FMU president Jaffus Hardrick and Trosley’s son, George Trosley III, posing with an oversize check in front of the orange and blue FMU logo.

The donation came as a number of investors were pulling out of Jungle Freaks after the senior Trosley was publicly accused of drawing cartoons in the 1970s that included racist stereotypes, the Klu Klux Klan, and at least one illustration depicting a handcuffed Black man at a murder scene at which bystanders appear to be mocking police brutality.

The NFTs that had been selling for as much as $95,000 fell in value to around $6,000. 

The fact that people are still buying @JungleFreaksNFT by George Trosley says a lot about the NFT space. Speak up leaders in the space #JUNGLEFREAKS racism. pic.twitter.com/P72kePbs5S

— SAFEMOON TO .01 (@safemoon_whales) November 1, 2021 The decades-old cartoons were brought to light in November, when Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood shared a photo (since deleted) of his Jungle Freaks NFT on Twitter. Wood, who owned at least six Jungle Freaks NFTs according to his OpenSea profile, shared that he’d sold the tokens after learning about Trosley’s Hustler past.

On November 1, Trosley III released a statement on Twitter on November 1 calling his father’s cartoons “horrible” and saying his father is ashamed of what he’d drawn. “It was incorrect then and it is incorrect now….The Trosley Family does not support or condone racism,” the statement reads. “We are looking into communities to support with education around NFTs.”

In a statement shared on Twitter eight hours later, the senior Trosley wrote that the cartoons were “taken out of context” as “today’s generation may not have an understanding of what was taking place in journalism and the world during my time at Hustler Magazine.” In a YouTube video posted that day with his son, the senior Trosley explained that Hustler publisher and founder Larry Flynt had directed him to be “as outrageous as possible” to call attention to social injustices at the time.

Larry Flynt, best known for pushing boundaries, became an unlikely champion for free speech when he famously won a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case against the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom the magazine had parodied in a satirical ad depicting the televangelist drunkenly losing his virginity to his mother in an outhouse. In 1983, Flynt appeared in court wearing the American flag as a diaper and famously shouted, “Free expression is absolute. I have a right to yell theater in a crowded fire!”

Long before that, in 1978, Flynt was paralyzed after he was shot by a white supremacist who targeted him for publishing photos of a mixed-race couple in Hustler. Flynt died in February from heart failure at age 78.

“Larry [Flynt] was probably the least racist guy you can think of. He wanted to push limits on just about everything,” the younger Trosley said on YouTube. “The cartoons you see in the magazine are trying to shine a light on how horrible America was. My dad doesn’t enjoy drawing that, but he’s shining a light on how horrible the KKK is, and at that time they were still around, and to take a jab at that group, like Larry and my father did, shows some balls.”

In a statement to New Times, Trosley III said Jungle Freaks’ donation is in no way connected to the allegations against his father. He says Jungle Freaks contacted FMU in November about the donation and he thought “the timing was great to link up during Art Basel.”

The money will go toward the development of a financial technology program that will invite leaders in the cryptocurrency space to teach students about the blockchain and NFTs.

“Our community wants to be a vehicle for change particularly in the black community to create diversity in this industry by providing impactful resources that generate not only financial wealth but help black artists monetize their artwork through NFTs,” Trosley III says in the press release.

Sharee Gilbert, a spokesperson for the university, didn’t respond to New Times’ request for comment about the donation.

Last year FMU was placed on probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, owing to a growing list of financial issues.

In November, amid falling enrollment numbers, the school made sweeping cutbacks, reducing employee salaries, discontinuing 15 faculty positions, and slashing 18 of its 28 undergraduate degree programs.

But it appears the university will gain at least one new program: NFTs.

— JUNGLE FREAKS BY TROSLEY (@JungleFreaksNFT) December 3, 2021