Yuengling Center: R. Kelly show will go on despite protest at USF

LUIS SANTANA   |   Times (2014)
R. Kelly\u2019s last local concert came in 2016, before the rise of Hollywood\u2019s #MeToo movement. But now a national campaign dubbed #MuteRKelly seeks to diminish the Grammy-winning singer\u2019s influence.
LUIS SANTANA | Times (2014) R. Kelly\u2019s last local concert came in 2016, before the rise of Hollywood\u2019s #MeToo movement. But now a national campaign dubbed #MuteRKelly seeks to diminish the Grammy-winning singer\u2019s influence.
Published November 1 2018
Updated November 2 2018

Days after a University of South Florida professor launched a campaign to cancel a Nov. 10 concert by controversial R&B singer R. Kelly, the Yuengling Center said the show would go on as planned.

Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, the Jeff Vinik-backed group that programs and manages the Yuengling Center and Amalie Arena, had rented the facility to an out-of-state promoter in October. In a statement, the group said it was "committed to providing diverse event programming, offering artists, promoters and tour managers the opportunity to host shows and events at our venues.

"At the same time, we recognize that prospective guests then have the right to decide which events at those venues they do or do not wish to attend."

While Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties did not book the concert, it has promoted the event through the Yuengling Center’s social media channels both before and after the protest was announced on Monday, including a sponsored Instagram ad this week. Paid advertising on rental events is dictated by the renter, said venue spokeswoman Kayla Levasseur, though organic tweets and posts also come from the Yuengling Center, formerly known as the Sun Dome. Both will continue through the show.

In a statement, University of South Florida spokesman referred all questions about the show to Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, whose officials declined further comment Thursday.

Aisha Durham, the associate professor of communication who launched the Tampa campaign on Sunday, said she’s reached out directly this week to Yuengling Center officials, but has not received a response.

"They’re not taking responsibility for bringing an alleged sexual predator to campus," she said. "This is something we shouldn’t even have a protest for. This is something we should already know is a non-starter if we are truly committed to tolerance and inclusion on our campus."

Durham has drawn support from other USF professors and students, including an online petition declaring Kelly "the Bill Cosby of Black American music" that has more than 150 signatures. It’s part of a national campaign dubbed #MuteRKelly, which seeks to diminish the Grammy-winning singer’s sphere of influence on radio, streaming services and the live stage. Durham said she hopes USF students will take it upon themselves to decide whether to picket the concert.

Over the past 20 years, Kelly has been accused and also charged with multiple inappropriate sexual relationships with minors and other women. His last local concert came in 2016, before the rise of Hollywood’s #MeToo movement. At that show, which drew thousands of fans but no obvious protesters to Amalie Arena, Kelly did make one oblique reference to his troubled legal history.

"All you have to be is 21, 21, 21 and older, and you can come home with me!" he wailed during the song Honey Love. "You can play house with me! You can be the mother and I’ll be the daddy!"

While the Nov. 10 show has already sold hundreds of tickets, 10 largely unsold sections in the 200 level were taken off sale on Ticketmaster between Monday and Thursday.

"At some point, we have to have more clarity about what we’re willing to accept in our community," Durham said. "What USF has communicated is that they don’t care about an alleged sexual predator coming to our campus community."

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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