Remember the old days, back when R Kelly was only known for R&B? Those days are long gone. These days, the former singer has been in the headlines so often for “other” activities, that he’s fast becoming a punchline. But now, things are getting even worse as he tries to make his comeback.
Civic leaders in Fulton County Georgia have said they want an upcoming concert by Kelly canceled. The reason for the suggested ban is a recent media report in which Kelly was accused of “mental and physical abuse” of young women. The Fulton County Commission sent a letter out to concert promoters, Live Nation, demanding that the company cancel a planned August 25 performance.
A sternly worded letter may be no big deal except for the fact that the county owns the venue where Live Nation tends to host its regular concerts and other entertainment events. The amphitheater, just outside the Atlanta city limits, is a popular draw for many shows throughout the year.
According to various media reports, Commissioner John Eaves spoke with reporters last week, telling them members of the commission were “troubled” by a recent BuzzFeed article that quoted parents of young women who are angry with the way they say Kelly treated their daughters. According to the BuzzFeed article, the parents accuse Kelly of luring young women in with promises of access into the music business, then he mistreats them physically and emotionally.
In the same article, an attorney for Kelly said his client absolutely denies the allegations. But that hasn’t been enough for Fulton County Commissioners. In their world, quotes in a BuzzFeed story are cause for enough concern to keep everyone home on August 25. But Eaves said it wasn’t just the report that contributed to the decision. He said members of the commission heard from “many” local residents who felt Kelly should not be at an event hosted at a venue owned by the public.
“They object to their tax dollars providing a stage for an entertainer who is repeatedly in a swirl of controversy surrounding the sexual exploitation of women and underage girls…” Eaves said.
And there it is. The old story roaring back to life. Eaves admitted Kelly had never been charged, much less convicted of any crimes related to that BuzzFeed report. But he said his constituents had to speak out “on a moral basis.”
At this point, Live Nation still has the final say, but after these very public comments, both parties could struggle with the PR consequences, no matter what happens. In the meantime, the people representing Kelly need to get a handle on their guy’s messaging … and fast.