Not in our town, Chris Brown.
That's the message Kelcy Beirnes hopes to get across to the promoter involved in bringing the controversial American singer to Winnipeg next month. Taking a cue from a grassroots effort in Halifax, which saw an online anti-Brown petition surpass 11,000 signatures and four corporate sponsors pull out of Brown's appearance there next month, Beirnes started her own petition on Change.org Monday, asking promoters of the Energy Rush tour to shelve 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 his fellow pop star during an argument in Los Angeles, drew attention to violence against women and created a public-relations nightmare for Brown -- one he hasn't been able to pull out of due to continued run-ins with the law.
The controversy surrounding Brown hasn't hurt the popularity of his 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. His new album X is set for release later this summer.
Susie Parker is also not down with Brown coming to Winnipeg, as she's in the planning stages of a benefit at Academy Lanes to raise money for Osborne House -- a local women's shelter and victims of domestic abuse -- on the same night as the concert. The event is not organized by Osborne House.
"We're just trying to take money out of Chris Brown's hands and give it to Osborne House," Parker said of the event, called Loving Hands Don't Hit. "I used to be a Chris Brown fan, but as a woman with a conscience, I just can't support him anymore."
Stephen Tobin, owner of Drop Entertainment Group and promoter of the three-stop Canadian Energy Rush concert series (Brown is the headline act), identified support for the show in Winnipeg as "nothing short of electric and overwhelmingly positive."
"In no way do we condone Chris Brown's past behaviour or personal endeavours. 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."
True North Sports and Entertainment, which is housing the show at MTS Centre, is sympathetic to the sensitivities regarding Brown but is not considering cancelling the show. It will let people make their own moral determination on the R&B singer.
"If Chris Brown is legally able to come into the country and play a show, we are into a contract with the promoter that we will honour," offered TNSE spokesman Scott Brown (no relation). "As with any show we put on, people can decide whether or not to support it by purchasing a ticket. And if they choose to express their opinion the night of the show, as long as they do so in a respectful manner and not interfere with the people that have chosen to go to the show, then they're entitled to do that as well."
Beirnes hopes her petition, which is addressed to Energy 106 (the local radio station promoting the show) and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, finds similar traction as the one in Halifax. Four corporate sponsors -- including Rogers and Molson Canadian -- have pulled out of the Energy Rush tour.
Beirnes implores those planning to attend the Brown show to reconsider.
"This is a guy who beat his girlfriend to the point where you couldn't recognize her," she said. "It's disgusting that he's coming here and I hope parents think twice about allowing their children to support this guy."
The petition is at www.change.org/energyrushwinnipeg.