Chris Brown supporters are starting to find ‘Friendly Manitoba’ not so friendly.
Taking a cue from a grassroots effort in Halifax, which saw an online anti-Brown petition surpass 10,000 signatures and four corporate sponsors pull out of the controversial American pop star’s appearance there next month, Winnipegger Kelcy Beirnes started her own petition on Change.org Monday evening, asking promoters of the ‘Energy Rush’ tour to cancel the Aug. 29 show at MTS Centre.
"It’s a really shameful thing for us to be having this concert here," Beirnes said Tuesday. "Of all the artists we could have brought in we have to hire somebody who is a terrible role model. We’re rewarding terrible behaviour and we’re bringing a criminal into our country."
Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. The incident, which saw Brown hit and choke the fellow pop star during an argument at a pre-Grammy Awards party in Los Angeles, drew attention to violence against women and spawned a public relations nightmare for Brown — one he hasn’t been able to pull out of thanks to continued public missteps and run-ins with the law.
The controversy hasn’t hurt the popularity of Brown’s music, though. His last two full-length albums, F.A.M.E. (released in 2011) and Fortune (2012) both reached the top of the Billboard charts and spawned numerous singles. His new album X is scheduled for release later this summer.
Beirnes isn’t the only one not down with Brown coming to Winnipeg. Osborne House, a Winnipeg-based women’s shelter, is in the planning stages of holding a benefit to raise money for victims of domestic abuse on the same night of the concert.
In a statement released Monday, Drop Entertainment Group, the promoter of the Energy Rush series, said it hopes Brown’s fans and concert goers will be allowed to make their own choices when it comes to the R&B singer:
"In no way do we condone Chris Brown’s past behaviour or personal endeavors; we are purely focused on his music, incredible talent and overall popularity. I believe it is a very slippery slope when we start trying to censor, or dictate, who can or cannot perform.
"If some do not want to support him, or this homegrown event, they can exercise their right by simply choosing not to attend. But everyone is free to make their own choices and no one has the right to prevent others from having a chance to see this world-class performer, should they choose to do so."