GM reps to meet with protesters of Kid Rock sponsorship

Adam Graham, and Melissa Burden
DetroitNews

General Motors Co. said it plans to continue sponsorship of Kid Rock's concert series after Chevrolet announced Tuesday it would meet this week with the National Action Network, which is calling for the automaker to end its support given the singer's past endorsement of the Confederate flag.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the civil rights network Michigan Chapter of National Action Network and pastor of King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, said the meeting Thursday at GM's world headquarters in Detroit will end one of two ways: With GM announcing it is pulling its sponsorship, or with the group announcing the date of its national demonstration against GM.

"We're working to organize a demonstration and certainly we want to escalate this movement," Williams said Tuesday. "We're not gonna let this die."

GM, in a statement Tuesday, said Chevrolet representatives will meet with Williams later this week to "better understand his concerns."

"We need to let some open and constructive dialogue occur as a first step, and we'll go from there," GM said.

The group's criticism of Rock comes as debate over the use of the Confederate flag throughout pop culture reignited after last month's killing of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Last week, the flag was removed from the grounds of the Statehouse.

In light of the looming protests, Kid Rock told Fox News: "Please tell the people protesting they can kiss my a--/ask me some questions."

"The only flag on stage during the Chevy-sponsored summer concert tour is the American flag, and to our knowledge, Kid Rock has not used the Confederate flag on stage for several years," GM said in a statement Tuesday.

Williams said he and local pastors and clergy will attend the meeting. GM declined to say which Chevy executives were meeting with the group. Williams head requested a meeting with CEO Mary Barra.

"We'll do our best to show our passion and try to educate them on why this is a very serious issue," Williams said. "If General Motors is interested in not having the support of the African-American community, then fine with us, we'll move our dollars somewhere where it makes sense."

Kid Rock is due in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday night. Next month, he is set to perform a venue-record 10 concerts at DTE Energy Music Theatre. All of the shows are sold out.

In 2011, Kid Rock received a Great Expectations Award from the NAACP and then said his use of the Confederate flag in performances had nothing to do with how he feels about blacks. Instead, he said then that using it stemmed from a song by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

For now, Chevy is standing behind the "Born Free" singer.

"We are committed to our sponsorship of Kid Rock's summer tour and are confident that he will provide his fans, many of whom are proud Chevrolet owners, with a spectacular concert experience that celebrates American freedom," the company said in a statement first issued last week and reissued Tuesday.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama