“Before the money game, it’s called the integrity game, and we’ve lost the integrity worrying about the money,” Mo’Nique, the actress, said. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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In the rarefied world of entertainment, being offered a payday of $500,000 can be seen as a slap in the face.

That’s how actress and comedian Mo’Nique saw things when she said Netflix offered her significantly less than other comedians doing specials on the streaming service. She protested and encouraged a boycott of Netflix.

Mo’Nique also has claimed she was blackballed because she was labeled as being “difficult” for not promoting the film “Precious,” for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Mo’Nique said she only made $50,000 for her performance and didn’t think it was fair that she was pushed to promote the film without receiving additional money.

Enter fellow comic Steve Harvey, who during a recent taping of his syndicated talk show chastised Mo’Nique for how she went about voicing her objections over what she felt has been unfair compensation for her work as both an actress and comedian.

Harvey and Mo’Nique were debating this question: What’s your integrity worth?

It appeared that Harvey was advocating that Mo’Nique take the money she was offered, which would ultimately benefit her family.

"If I crumble, my children crumble, my grandchildren crumble,” Harvey lectured. “I cannot, for the sake of my integrity, stand up here and let everybody that's counting on me crumble so I can make a statement. There are ways to win the war in a different way."

Harvey questioned Mo’Nique’s methods of protest.

“When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth,” Harvey told her. “We black out here. We can’t come out here and do it any kind of way we want to . . . This is the money game. This ain’t the black man’s game. This ain’t the white man’s game. This is the money game!”

He added: “The best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them.”

Mo’Nique pushed back, arguing there is a larger issue of fighting for economic fairness. The numbers are super big for her, but I get what’s she’s saying. It’s the same argument other women and minorities make for demanding equal pay.

“Before the money game, it’s called the integrity game, and we’ve lost the integrity worrying about the money,” Mo’Nique said.

Many people have come to her defense.

The issue of equal pay in Hollywood heated up after hacked Sony studio emails showed that there is a big disparity between what male actors are paid compared with their female co-stars. An email revealed that Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her co-stars Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper for the movie “American Hustle.”

But this isn’t just about Mo’Nique or other relatively rich entertainers.

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” actress Patricia Arquette said at the 2015 Academy Awards while accepting the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in “Boyhood.” “It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Arquette produced the documentary “Equal Means Equal,” which addresses the pay gap for women. You can view it on a number of digital platforms, including Google Play and YouTube.

The debate between Harvey and Mo’Nique is a bit ironic considering it’s Black History Month, a time we celebrate people who protested for equality at great risk to themselves, their families and their economic livelihood.

The civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated during a trip to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers who were protesting horrible working conditions and unequal pay. Would Harvey have told them to stop complaining and just take the money they were offered?

“The men worked long hours for low wages, with no overtime pay and no paid sick leave,” Washington Post reporter DeNeen L. Brown wrote recently in a retrospective look at the sanitation strike. “Injuries on the job could lead to their getting fired. If they didn’t work, they didn’t get paid. Most of them made 65 cents per hour.

‘I Am a Man’: The ugly Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that led to MLK’s assassination

Speaking to a crowd about the strike, King said: “You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.”

But is the battle that Mo’Nique is fighting the same as those sanitation workers or others who continue to protest for pay equity? Should we even care that two wealthy people are bickering about what integrity is worth?

Yes, and no.

Clearly Mo’Nique is much better off financially than most workers in the United States, but she shouldn’t be scolded like a child for protesting for pay equity or asking to be compensated when she’s pushing a film from which others have made millions.

Mo’Nique lives in a world of seven-figure numbers that we mere wage-earning mortals may not identify with, but she stands for a lot of people who put their livelihood on the line to demand what is right and fair at all income levels.

Color of Money question of the week

Even though it’s costing her money, is Mo’Nique right to openly protest her pay disparity? What do you think about this debate? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line, put “What’s Your Integrity Worth?”

Read more:

Court: Employers can’t pay women less because of their salary history

Sure, Equal Pay Day is about what’s in women’s paychecks. It’s also about fairness.

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What are your thoughts on payday loans?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed pulling back on rules for payday and car-title loans, as well as other small-dollar forms of credit.

Under the Obama administration, the CFPB issued a new rule that would require lenders to make sure borrowers have the means to repay their loans. The rule was set to take effect Aug. 19.

But now, under Republican leadership, the CFPB has favored more lenient rules for lenders offering payday loans, which often trap borrowers into a cycle of debt.

The CFPB has opened up a comment period on the new proposed rule on payday, vehicle title and certain high-cost installment loans. Comments are due by May 15. Here’s how to submit your views:

Electronic: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=CFPB-2019-0006-0001. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. To see comments from others under “Docket Information” look for related comments and then click the “view all” link.

Email: 2019-NPRM-PaydayReconsideration@cfpb.gov. Include Docket No. CFPB-2019-0006 or RIN 3170-AA80 in the subject line of the message.

Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier: Comment Intake, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, 1700 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20552.

Read more:

The trap of payday loans can lead to triple-digit interest rates

They should just call it the Financial Services Protection Bureau

Which is worse: A payday loan or borrowing against a 401(k)?

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