The choice of Kid Rock as the opening act for a new sports arena in mostly black Detroit has injected the musician into the national debate over race and culture because of his embrace of the Confederate flag, an expletive-laced criticism of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and unabashed support for President Donald Trump.
Olympia Entertainment selected Kid Rock to open the new Little Caesars Arena with concerts next week. Kid Rock, who is white, has been lauded for his philanthropy and support of Detroit, but his recent criticism of Kaepernick has prompted one civil rights organization in Detroit to plan a protest and call for the concerts to be canceled.
Kaepernick, who is black, refused to stand during the national anthem while with the San Francisco 49ers last year in protest of police violence and social injustice. During a concert last month in Iowa, Kid Rock told fans that "football's about ready to start," then went on to say, "You know what? (expletive) Colin Kaepernick," the Des Moines Register reported.
Kid Rock, who is from the Detroit suburbs and proudly claims the city as his home, has six concerts scheduled at the $860 million, 20,000-seat arena, starting Tuesday — a move that Peter Hammer, director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Detroit's Wayne State University, called "incredibly tone deaf."
"Everything is different post-Charlottesville," Hammer said, referring to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 that resulted in the death of one counter-protester and injuries to many more.
"These are moments where you have to act as a matter of character and state what your values are," Hammer added. "Everything now is becoming symbolic. That means we have to choose our symbols carefully."