DETROIT (AP) – General Motors said Tuesday it’ll continue its sponsorship of Kid Rock’s summer concert tour, despite a request by a Detroit activist group that the automaker cut financial ties with the musician if he displays the Confederate flag onstage.
Members of the National Action Network and Detroit chapter president, the Rev. Charles Williams II, will meet Thursday with representatives from GM’s Chevrolet brand. The two sides have been in discussions recently over Kid Rock, who has been criticized in the past for displaying the rebel battle flag during performances.
“We need to let some open and constructive dialogue occur as a first step, and we’ll go from there” GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey said.
It’s not clear whether Kid Rock still displays the flag during his concerts, though Morrissey noted: “The only flag on stage during the Chevy-sponsored summer concert tour is the American flag, and to our knowledge, Kid Rock has not used the Confederate flag on stage for several years.”
The Associated Press left messages Tuesday seeking comment from Kid Rock, who was born Robert Ritchie and lives in suburban Detroit.
The Confederate flag spurred protests following last month’s massacre of nine black worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The white man charged in the slayings had posed with the flag in photos that were posted online before the attack that police say was motivated by racial hatred. Lawmakers in South Carolina voted to remove the flag from outside the Statehouse, and it was taken down last week.
National Action Network members protested last week outside a Detroit museum housing a Kid Rock exhibit.
Williams said the group still is awaiting a response from the musician.
“He has not displayed it in his concerts, so they have said,” Williams said of GM’s statement. “We’re going to take the opportunity to dialogue and hopefully their minds change. The best resolution is for GM to pull their sponsorship of Kid Rock. The entire civil rights community is ready to open up a campaign on this issue if General Motors doesn’t want to take responsibility on this bad business issue.”
But Morrissey said Thursday in an email that the automaker is “committed to our sponsorship of Kid Rock’s summer tour and are confident that he will provide his fans, many of whom are proud Chevrolet owners, with a spectacular concert experience that celebrates American freedom.”
Kid Rock grew up in Michigan’s Macomb County and is known for dabbling in a variety of musical styles, from hip-hop and hard rock to country and Southern rock. He counts among his biggest hits, “Picture,” ”All Summer Long,” ”Bawitdaba” and “Born Free.” GM has used “Born Free” to promote its Chevy brand.
His philanthropy in Detroit and surrounding areas also is well-known.
Kid Rock was honored in 2011 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branch in Detroit.
“I’ve never flown that flag with any hate in my heart,” Ritchie told a crowd attending the organization’s annual fundraising dinner that year. “Not one ounce.”
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