TAMPA — Before reggae artist Buju Banton took the stage Friday night, the Cuban Club revised the show's contract to forbid him from singing lyrics inciting violence against gays.
It was a move made just hours before the show to stem some of the controversy that ignited a day earlier when gay-rights advocates learned the Cuban Club allowed in an artist who is under fire for violent anti-gay verses in at least one song.
Banton's promoter agreed to the change without objections, said Patrick Manteiga, a Cuban Club executive committee member. It prohibited Banton from singing Boom Bye Bye, whichtalks about shooting and burning gay men, and barred him from making inflammatory remarks about gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgendered people.
More than half of Banton's concerts nationwide have been canceled or moved because of growing protests over his song. While he has said he does not condone violence against gays, critics say he hasn't distanced himself from the popular song, which he wrote as a teen in 1988.
Both Jannus Landing and the Ritz theater in Ybor City canceled Banton's October show before the Cuban Club agreed to host him earlier this week — without knowledge of the controversy.
The surprise rescheduling drew a large-scale e-mail and telephone call protest on Thursday led by Pride Tampa Bay, Equality Florida and the GaYBOR District Coalition, which includes more than 100 businesses and groups in Ybor, including the Cuban Club.
Jose Berenguer, president of the Cuban Club's board of directors, told the groups he regretted signing Banton, but said the club couldn't renege on the contract without facing a possible lawsuit.
The explanation didn't sit well with critics, and on Friday the club's executive committee came up with the contract addendum to try and douse concerns.
"We certainly don't want to be an event center that has anybody preaching hate or encouraging violence against any group," Manteiga said. "We read the lyrics to that song and it's pretty rough and we don't want anyone to encourage violence against gays."
The amended contract required Banton's promoter to pay for three extra police as a precaution. If Banton violated the new agreement, he would forfeit his deposit, which was increased by one-third to $3,000.
"What we hope is that if people have an issue about this artist that they bring it up to the artist," Manteiga said. "The Cuban Club stays out of politics. Our bylaws don't allow us to take a position … But we can take a strong stance against violence and that's what we've done."
Mark Bias, co-founder of the GaYBOR coalition, still wasn't satisfied. He said the concert should have been canceled.
"I think it's still absolutely horrible what they're doing," Bias said. "It's not just the gay community that's upset, it's all of Ybor. And I think they're making a very bad mistake over this."
As the concert got under way Friday there was no evidence of protesters at the club.