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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: Instagram posts on Stevie Wonder boycott spreading greatly exaggerated

Did you hear?

Dozens of the world's hottest musical acts are joining music legend Stevie Wonder in protest of Florida's "stand your ground" law after the George Zimmerman trial, according to social networks and the blogosphere.

Various lists name two dozen artists that have canceled tour dates in the Sunshine State indefinitely "UNTIL THE LAW IN FLORIDA IS ABOLISHED!" An Instagram list is populated with world-famous acts such as Justin Timberlake, Jay Z, Rihanna, Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Usher, will.i.am and other groups.

Timberlake is singled out for nixing the kickoff of his tour in Miami because he refused "TO ENTERTAIN A STATE WHO'S GOVERNMENT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO SHOOT-N-KILL UN-ARMED TEENAGERS!"

PolitiFact is skeptical of chain emails that are typed in ALL CAPS, contain misspellings and do not disclose sources. The meme we've seen (which touts the misspelled names of RIHANA and ALISHIA KEYS as signing on) is a triple whammy.

Talk of Florida boycotts started July 14, the day after Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. Wonder announced he won't perform in Florida until the 2005 "stand your ground" law is abolished.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world." (More than 20 other states have similar "stand your ground" laws.)

Several musical artists and celebrities reacted to the verdict with anger and disbelief. Many gave musical tributes to Martin, including Beyoncé, Young Jeezy, Jay Z and Timberlake, Bruce Springsteen and Wyclef Jean.

But none of the artists publicly announced they are joining Wonder's boycott.

Still, it wasn't long before the story crossed over into news coverage. American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan cited "sources close to Stevie Wonder camp" for her Monday report that a similar slate of artists are joining Wonder in support of changing "stand your ground." Some have already called off concerts, she wrote.

Her list contained two groups not on the original roundup: Eddie Levert, lead singer of the R&B group the O'Jays, and gospel duo Mary Mary.

"We love our fans but we MUST do something!!" Mary Mary wrote on Facebook. "We understand a No from us isn't as big as a No from Stevie Wonder but if all our voices join together we can REALLY change things!"

These are the only artists from Ryan's list who have announced they are joining Wonder's effort.

We did our own reporting. Most of the artists do not have upcoming tour dates in Florida. Rihanna, for example, was just in Tampa in April.

"This leg of Rod Stewart's tour hasn't ever included Florida dates, so that isn't accurate," said Hannah Kampf, a spokeswoman for Stewart.

Madonna did not join the boycott, spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg told us. Neither did Keys, whose spokeswoman said in a statement, "We question the validity of this list since Alicia's name along with many others has appeared erroneously."

A spokeswoman for the Rolling Stones told Mother Jones no one in the band had "heard anything about this."

Timberlake and Jay Z do have their shared "Legends of the Summer" concert Aug. 16 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Timberlake has another concert planned for December in Orlando.

If the shows are off, no one told the ticket vendors, updated either artist's website or informed the venues. Sun Life Stadium tweeted us the concert "is on as scheduled."

Funk maestro George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, also named among artists boycotting Florida, is scheduled to play in Tallahassee on July 28. We found nothing to contradict that. And funk stars Maze and Frankie Beverly are still slated to perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15, a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Internet is rife with claims of Wonder's beefed-up Florida boycott. But it's short on proof.

We rate this statement False.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

The statement

Dozens of artists, including Justin Timberlake, Jay Z and Rihanna, are canceling Florida shows like Stevie Wonder in protest of "stand your ground."

Instagram posts, on Sunday

The ruling

Politifact ruling: False
We could not find evidence that scores of acts are joining Wonder's boycott. We rate this statement False.

PolitiFact: Instagram posts on Stevie Wonder boycott spreading greatly exaggerated 07/24/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 10:21pm]
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