Kid Rock is a disgrace. Why is he first act of Little Caesars Arena?

Camille Johnson is a native Detroiter interested in creating collaborative, community-driven resources to improve her city.

Next month, Kid Rock is performing a six-concert series to open the new, taxpayer-subsidized Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit. At best, the selection is naively tone-deaf. At worst, it’s an affront to people of color who feel left out of improvements in their own city.

In January, when the arena’s owner, Olympia Entertainment, announced the concerts, Kid Rock was called “the perfect entertainer to open Little Caesars Arena” by Tom Wilson, Olympia’s president and CEO. This week, Olympia added insult to injury, announcing the arena would feature a Kid Rock-themed restaurant.

Multiple critics have spoken out against welcoming the one-time Confederate flag-waver to the arena. And with good reason. It feels like an extension of Bedrock’s ill-conceived and since-removed “See Detroit Like We Do” ads that depict a city very different from the one that currently exists. A Detroit where the black and brown people who make up the majority of the population are invisible and unseen. A Detroit that purposely leaves black and brown residents out of the conversation, and creates new, exciting resources and platforms that aren’t meant for their enjoyment or benefit.

Kid Rock performing at Little Caesars Arena is an unfortunate example of this truth.

Unfamiliar with his politics? Here’s a quick refresher on Kid Rock’s history with the Confederate battle flag and hate symbols. After rising to fame by appropriating hip-hop culture, Kid Rock made multiple pivots – first to rap-rock, then southern rock, heartland rock and now a mashup of them all. During these pivots, the artist began using the Confederate flag and championing “Southern heritage” in line with his new fan base and changing sound.

kid rock confederate flag

Michigan-based singer Kid Rock says he stopped using the Confederate battle flag in concert years ago. He’s unapologetic about his use of the imagery, though, telling protesters in 2015 to kiss his ass. (Getty images)

Kid Rock says he stopped using the flag in concerts in 2011 but has repeatedly demonstrated his love for Confederate regalia, while telling people protesting the systemic racism and oppression those symbols represent to “kiss his ass.” This month, Jack Roskopp created a timeline further detailing Kid Rock’s history with the Confederate flag for the Metro Times.

How can Christopher Ilitch and Little Caesars Arena’s stakeholders back their decision to have Kid Rock headline the arena’s opening, when the artist’s problematic views and actions are so well-documented? Little Caesars Arena is providing a platform to an artist who has used symbols of white nationalism and openly supports policies and politicians that are harmful to most of Detroit residents.

Why choose Kid Rock when there are "worldwide stars and Detroit icons" like Stevie Wonder, Eminem and Jack White who don’t support messages of racism, bigotry and hate through their brands, art, words and actions? The decision to have Kid Rock is willfully ignorant and indicative of a larger problem.

Decisions are being made that routinely ignore the perspectives, needs and experiences of Detroit’s residents of color – even though we make up 91 percent of the city’s population. An increasing number of residents are concerned (and outraged) that two Detroits are emerging. One Detroit with a bustling downtown and beautiful pockets filled with resources, entertainment and new developments to attract upwardly mobile residents and big businesses; and another Detroit where neighborhoods are neglected, infrastructure is crumbling, education is failing, and opportunities are hard to find.

These concerns are strengthened by the fact that the Little Caesars Arena will be funded by more than $200 million in taxpayer bonds that were initially earmarked for Detroit’s schools and public parks. The funds would have provided crucial resources at a time when the city’s education system and neighborhoods are undergoing major redevelopment.

Oh, and did I mention that arena owners are under no legal obligation to use a small percentage of revenue to develop services and resources for Detroit’s residents? Talk about community-driven development.

Kid Rock opening this arena that is subsidized for by Detroit’s taxpayers only proves that the outrage and concern many residents feel are justified. It’s a slap in the face to the people who lovingly endure the ups and downs of our city, and symbolic of the ongoing erasure of longtime Detroiters as people who contribute to the city’s growth and deserve to be considered and engaged in decisions affecting them. As redevelopment continues to leave out underserved and marginalized residents, I continue to wonder who we’re revitalizing Detroit for, and, perhaps more importantly, how can we ensure that this growth isn’t coming at the expense of our communities?

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Kevin Grand
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 6:29am

Kid Rock's Foundation has generously donated several thousand dollars in donations locally and regionally over the years.

Exactly what have you done, Ms. Johnson?

And considering the fact that Kid Rock was awarded the NAACP's Great Expectations Award not that long ago, which he had accepted in person, the rest of your post is seriously lacking any merit whatsoever.

Le Roy G. Barnett
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:04am

I don't often agree with Kevin Grand, but I commend him for using his full name, unlike many other commentators in this forum who hide behind a pseudonym or just a forename.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:08am

Kevin Grand, I took a look at the Kid Rock Charity link you posted and I don't see what you saw. Naming rights for space at the Eastern Market is promotion and self serving, though considered charitable it doesn't address the real concerns of long time Detroiters. I commend the support of our troops as well but Kid Rocks' charity is a long way from having a real impact in Detroit from what I see on the website.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:08pm

Have you tried clicking on the images below that post at his charities website or hitting the load more box at the bottom of the page? They do go into more detail than what you see in the preview pane .

Aside from his donations to Operation Homefront, he has also made donations to the Detroit Historical Museum, set up a scholarship at Wayne State and donated to the Karmanos Cancer Center among others.

If there is any real problem here with your question (accurately speaking it's not really a "problem" per se, but I cannot think of any other way to describe it), it is that when Kid Rock's charity does make donations, he does it VERY low key and without making that much out of his donating.

Karen Dumas describes it best in this MLive piece:

"Dumas is a former spokeswoman for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing who has witnessed Kid Rock's seflessness and gratitude help change lives in the Motor City and give opportunities to its residents that previously weren't available.

Kid Rock said modestly in November during an interview with the CBS show "Sunday Morning" he "probably" has given close to $1 million to charitable causes in the past year.

Dumas wouldn't be surprised if that's a low estimate.

"One time he handed me checks for five or six organizations, and I think the largest check was for $50,000," said Dumas, who lived in the same four-unit house on the east side of Detroit with Kid Rock in the early 90s. "He just said, 'Here, Karen. Can you get these to them?"

"He didn't do it with any fanfare or any press release. He's sincere and realizes he's been blessed."

Kid Rock's philanthropic gestures include a $250,000 donation to add an interactive music lab at the Detroit Historical Museum, an undisclosed sum to keep a day each year of Detroit Gold Cup hydroplane races free and a Made in Detroit Endowed Scholarship at Wayne State University."

I also have to echo Grady and Kimberly's disappointment in The Bridge for even printing this piece.

Just a cursory check of Ms. Johnson's "claims" would've easily refuted much of what she had written.

I would have thought that The Bridge had learned it lesson from just two months ago.

Obviously, I was in error.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:30pm

Good job

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:01pm

I stand behind you Kevin, its nice to hear someone stick up for him, most people like Kid Rock, a true American! I just consider the source when I hear some big mouth put him down!

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 4:20pm

KR got multiple charities his care tour all sales went to that cities choice of news said at the time 2013 hed giving 1 million in charity that dont count the million to save the DSO two yrs prior. Dude cut a check to my local boy scout troop in Orlando when their gear got stolen.RESPECT.

Paul Jordan
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:30pm

Wow--"several thousand dollars locally and regionally over the years". So what? Many of us who aren't at all rich have donated a much higher proportion of our income/wealth.

Donating money is a lot easier--if you have the money--than doing the right thing.

I'm not sure what point you were trying to make with your reference to an NAACP award. Was it that in handing an award to a champion of racist symbols the NAACP demonstrated that it is out of touch with important issues concerning African Americans? I might agree with that.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:26pm

I think the detailed explanations pretty much destroyed your point. No need to clarify your comment, I just did it for you.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:53pm

Mr. Jordan, you sound like a reasonably intelligent person.

If you couldn't figure that out, then it's not worth my time to explain.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:10pm

No it's not thousands it's been millions. That must have been a typo because it's not 10 of thousands....his checks are usually 250,000-500,000. He started Made in Detroit and Badass beer during the recession solely for the purpose of creating jobs. A lot of his donations are made anonymously and we hear about them years after the fact.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:24pm

He's crude and coarse. His appeal has evolved into the baser instincts of man. The naacp award does provide cover for him and the comment

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:06am

I don't think Kid Rock is racist in any way, shape or form. Southern Rock has long used the confederate flag as a symbol....not to be racist but to signify the great sounds that came from Southern musicians. Kid Rock has always supported the people of Detroit...find a fight that has some merit.

Paul Jordan
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:32pm

The confederate flag is a racist symbol, period. The 'southern culture' that apologists proclaim that it represents was a culture of slavery, institutional terrorism, and racial oppression.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is clueless.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:57pm

The confederate flag is a racist symbol,ok,you read your liberal playbook. Go away

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:26pm

It represents slavery. Its a swastika

Mary Fox
Wed, 09/06/2017 - 5:33pm

That is history not a playbook. This isn't a rightwing game. What a clueless, inane comment.

Andrew Russell
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 2:05pm

Paul you do realize that all the members of the "Southern Culture" at the time were Democrats. The KKK were all Democrats, All the statues that are being torn down are were all Democratic leaders and generals of the time. It was the northern Republicans that gave shelter to the African American's, it was Honest Abe a Republican that freed the slaves, it was the Repubs that passed the 1964 Civil Rights act, it was the Repubs that tried to pass a similar Civil Rights act in 1875. The unfortunate facts get in the way of everyone's narrative. It is also unfortunate that the Bigots and Racists in this country have abandoned their real party, the Democrates, and have latched onto the Repubs, who frankly want nothing to do with them . The media has done a fantastic job of hanging those racists pigs and mouth breathers around the Repubs neck.

don handy
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 3:36pm

Your history is somewhat correct, although you leave out the Dixiecrats. There was a difference between the northern Democrats and the southern Democrats. After southerners left the party en mass, after the passage of the mid-sixties civil rights bills, the Republicans engaged in what has been dubbed the southern strategy, whereby the appealed to white southern voters using racist code words. It worked for Nixon, and explains why the south is red.

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 8:47pm

Great come back.
People like Andrew live in the past. Reality must be too painful for them to accept.

Bob N
Sat, 09/02/2017 - 3:55pm

One of the two major parties is always the primary party of white supremacy in the USA. Used to be the Democrats but Nixon saw the opportunity to take the Southern Dixiecrat vote into the Republican Party and went after the KKK aligned electorate with great enthusiasm. That has been Republican policy ever since. That is why Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi where the Southern racists infamously murdered the civil rights activists. That is what the Republican Party has become: Lincoln wouldn't spot on today's RNC if they were on fire.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:28pm

History that we all know reveals that the dixie crats migrated to repub party upon the passage of 1964 civil rights legislation.

Mary Fox
Wed, 09/06/2017 - 5:36pm

Do you realize this lame argument about Democrats ended when the Republicans took up their Southern racist strategy and championship of disparaging people of color and went looking for the NICE Nazis like Trump. Sickening breitbart nonsense.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:13pm

Kid Rock has a biracial son. He was very much in love with his sons mother. Look who he hangs out with? He is NOT racist. Stop calling everyone a racist just so you can try and get what you want!

linda daniels
Fri, 09/01/2017 - 10:05pm

I am so sick of hearing every one is racist too, you wrote a excellent piece!

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 5:39pm

Really having a biracial son makes you not a racist? You mean all those black women raped by their masters who had their biracial sons and daughters sold shouldn't view that as an act of racism? Hum.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 10:02pm

Your comment just emphasizes your ignorance.

Steve Smewing
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:18am

Here is the thing. I am a white guy. The confederate flag to me and everyone I know is merely a symbol of being a rebel badass redneck. It only represents that and doesn't extend past that.

Other people who see it differently, that is your perspective and you are entitled to it, but you cannot have it both ways.

In other words you cannot see it one way and have that right while another sees it a different way, they to must have that right.

I know that stance completely melts a liberal mind. But, that is basic freedom of thought.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 10:39am

I am the Michigan born and raised great great granddaughter of a Confederate soldier and have spent much of my life studying the Civil War. In 1901 my 2x great grandfather wrote this in a letter to his children: "I have never seen the time that I was ashamed or afraid to own the name of a Confederate. I was fighting for home and rights, and will do it again." The family were farmers and never rich enough to afford slaves, but were part of a culture where segregation was the law of the land. They were born and raised in that culture; they were devout Baptists who believed in that culture. Make no mistake, that Confederate battle flag will always signify slavery and segregation to a significant number in your community. If you choose to be associated with that flag, then you also choose to be viewed as supporting slavery and segregation by those in your community who have taken the time to become knowledgeable about U.S. history.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:25pm

Thats like saying that the Italian flag will always signify Fascism....or the American Flag will always represent 'The trail of tears'......look up: the fallacy of compostion and STOP reading bumper stickers!

Alicia Nails
Sat, 09/02/2017 - 9:36am

The Italian flag has undergone numerous changes - the current one in use AFTER the war. The stars and stripes have only changed in number/s, and the flag of secession was never an American flag, at all, ever . So the [complicated] Italian flag analogy is a poor one.

Also YES, the American flag WILL always represent the Trail of Tears for those whose ancestors were forced to endure it.

Andrew Russell
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 2:13pm

Okay Charlene if you are going to use the argument that a person is judged by the company they keep and that a symbol always has to have the same meaning, then how do you reconcile that you are a member of the biggest racist party that has ever existed? It was the southern Democrats that started Slavery and Segregation. Where were all the riots and protests, where did Dr King march, where did the National Guard escort a girl to school. In the Democratic stronghold of the south. The Repubs freed the Slaves, the Repubs passed the 1964 Civil Rights act. Against the will of the Democrates. So carrying on your definition, then you must be a racist because 40 years Democrats in the south were still segregating kids in school, and the KKK still marched.

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:35am

The Republicans freed the slaves. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was originally introduced by Democratic President John F Kennedy. Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pursued passage of the legislation after President Kennedy's death. In 1964 both the U.S. Senate and the U. S. House of Representatives were majority Democrat. So while southern voters may have been largely Democrats, it was the Democratic Party that was responsible for making the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. The passage of the Civil Rights Act, however, also contributed to the migration of many southern voters from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party; a change which some have characterized as Nixon's "southern strategy". It was largely during the Nixon/Ford administration that the identities of Republicans and Democrats were swapped in regard to civil rights. And throughout it all, the Confederate Battle Flag has signified the fact that southern states were willing to break up the United States in order to retain the institution of slavery. Just as there is no mistaking the meaning projected by the German Nazi Flag, there is no mistaking the the meaning projected by the Confederate Battle Flag.
P.S. Both my grandfather and my great grandfather were Democrats and members of the KKK as well. They both had passed away, however, by the time the 1957 Civil Rights Act was passed.

Andrew Russell
Fri, 09/01/2017 - 8:19am

Lets look at the facts, 80% of Republicans in the House and Senate voted for the bill. Less than 70% of Democrats did. It was the southern Dems that were filibustering it. The repubs, under Hubert Humphrey put together a coalition to get it broken. If it wasn't for the repubs, it would have never happened.

Jerry Snook
Sun, 09/03/2017 - 9:53pm

You are correct in many ways but the part that you and conservatives leave out of this discussion is that it was conservative southern Democrats that where involved in the KKK, and it was liberal Republicans along with liberal Dems that fought for passage of the Civil Rights act. Well, fast forward 50 years and those conservative Dems are now called Republicians (thanks to the southern strategy) and the current GOP has very few liberals or even moderates. I know you guys want to capitalize on the name "Republican" to claim a high moral ground, but it's really about conservatives vs liberals in both parties. Further, it was really divided along the lines of North and South, more so than party vs party. Of course this was back when there were conservatives and liberals in both parties, something that doesn't exist today. Your party would primary any of those liberal northern conservatives if they were to run today. So no, you lost any high moral ground after the passage of the Civil Rights act.

Angela Wilson
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:12am

people do have freedom of thought but consider the name of the object you are referring to... it had/has an origin and a purpose, right?

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 1:59pm

So I guess,lynard skynard,Molly hatchet,hank jr,hank 3 and the dukes of hazzard are all just racists

Jeff Outlander
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:10pm

People will always find what they are hoping to see. After eight years of the Obama Administration and the Identity Politics (White versus Black, Rich versus Poor, Straight versus Gay, Christian versus Aethiest) of the Democrat Party, many liberals are interpreting everything they can as bigotry of some type or another. Liberals do this in order to claim the moral high ground and obtain the desirable "victim"/underdog status which confers the unquestionable mantel of a "martyrdom. In their minds you cannot disagree with their beliefs because they are the morally virtuous ones. If you DO argue with them they reason that it is because you are EVIL. It is the tactic of demonization. They have dehumanized you and thus they are entitled to use violence against you if you defy them.

"...Liberals see racism where it doesn't exist, fabricate it when they can't find it and ignore it within their own ranks." -- Michelle Malkin

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 10:04pm

You are right on!!!!

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 3:22pm

So what is the opposite of identity politics, the normalization of nazis as just one of "many sides?"

Lucy Cline
Fri, 09/01/2017 - 9:33am

Look, the confederate flag's time is done. Regardless of how anyone viewed it in the past -- racist or not -- it is now clearly identified as a racist symbol and anyone continuing to use it knows that at some level. So let's just stop debating it and put them away for good.

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:29pm


Steve Banicki
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:25am

Sometimes us white people are stupid. This is one of those times

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:28am

I think you are is a disgrace for the outlying area's of Detroit to be like the wild west with residents in constant fear for their lives and safety. Their kids going to substandard schools because the Gov. and his handlers (read; DeVoss) have set up a scam that robs school funding and redirects it to schools where profit is the goal and education is second. The use of school money to build a stadium for a second rate sport that overpays its players while education gets leftovers is completely wrong.
Here is a glaring example of Capitalism gone wrong...where is the risk to the folks who will reap profits from their publicly funded enterprise?

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 2:00pm

Detroit demicrats have been ripping iff tax payers for 50 years

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 8:54pm

You couldn't be more delutional. Detroit gets 13000 dollars per student which is much higher that the national average. The problem is the culture fostered by decades of liberal policies that have destroyed a once great city.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:32am

How did this get published? Seriously, society is now complaining about "who plays first" at an arena??? This is an actual discussion point? And is this about Kid Rock or public funds being used to fund a stadium? Which is it? Cause I am all-aboard the "no-public funds for arenas" argument but the implication is, this would not be an issue if one of the authors approved artists were performing, not Kid Rock? This column is all over the place with no focused theme.

As far as the column itself, how is the author not tone-deaf? As noted, the NAACP awarded him the NAACP's Great Expectations Award. Is your problem with him, or the NAACP? Maybe you should direct your fake-outrage towards the group that gave him an award.

As far as the "timeline" that was linked to, it notes he stopped using the flag years ago and the rest is just a list of statements and political views the author does not approve of ... and? Are the statements you do not approve of your argument or is it implied?

The author also takes issue with his music styles and evolution and plays the ever so popular "appropriation" outrage card. You seem to have an issue with an artist changing or evolving as he finds his voice ... this is an issue because????

And someone really needs to step up and educate people because appropriation is common and often encouraged in art. It is how genres evolve and styles change. It is not automatically negative. Misappropriation is different and often negative but is that the case here? At his core, Kid Rock is a glorified tribute artist who pays homage to his many influences through sampling and lyrics ... often directly referring to the artists that influenced him. Not many do this in the way he does. Many would claim this is the opposite of misappropriation.

This is nothing but manufactured outrage by yet another social justice warrior seeking to perpetuate first-in class perpetual victim status and is critical just to be critical, fawning false outrage in order to draw attention to their cause. Please think about this, this is an argument about who plays "first" at a new arena ... as if this rises to any level of importance, let alone enough to warrant a (tired) outrage column based on retreaded information.

There are many issues in this country and in Detroit that are based on race that are real and need to be addressed. I suggest the author go find one.


Le Roy F. Barnett
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 10:22am

Well said, Grady, well said.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 11:32am

No wonder a PAC wants him to run for Senate. Look at all the attention he gets. He has no control over what Detroit does . I am not a fan and would not spend time or money to see him. Confederate monuments are on thing, stop making everything us or them.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 7:16pm