Kid Rock, protesters trade barbs as he tells them: 'Take the wheel' in Detroit

Detroit — Kid Rock's profane comments about Oprah Winfrey are part of a bigger problem, a group of civil rights activists said Wednesday,  as the Ilitch organization announced the upcoming closure of his Detroit restaurant.

"This isn't just about Kid Rock," Sam Riddle, political director of the National Action Network Detroit chapter, said at a press conference Wednesday. "This is about the Ilitches, and plantation politics in Detroit ... this is about the haves and have-nots in Detroit," Riddle said.

Sam Riddle address the news media outside Kid Rock's Made in Detroit restaurant Wednesda at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

The press briefing, attended by about 20 people, was held outside Kid Rock's restaurant, Made in Detroit, which will be ending its stay at Little Caesars Arena in April.

Hours after the announcement that the restaurant would be leaving Little Caesars Arena, Kid Rock took to Facebook Wednesday morning to address the restaurant and alluded to a break with Detroit as well:

I appreciate all who have patronized our place and still have much love for the City of Detroit and the people / organizations that I have helped there for years, black, white, whatever, but learned long ago, go where you're celebrated, not tolerated. I guess the millions of dollars I pumped into that town was not enough. I will let the NAN network and others go ahead and take the wheel now. Good luck."

The statement on social media came after Chris Granger, group president of sports and entertainment at Ilitch Holdings, had issued a statement Wednesday on the restaurant:

“We have been in contact with Kid Rock. He has voluntarily decided not to renew his licensing agreement for the Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit restaurant which comes up for renewal in April. We are in the business of amazing and inspiring our fans and guests through an incredible array of world-class sporting and live entertainment events. As our venues are open, inviting, inclusive, and respectful to all, we look forward to bringing on an exciting new concept that aligns with our community and company values.”

Riddle's response? "Good riddance."

The Rev. Charles Williams, director of the Detroit National Action Network chapter, had a similar reply: "Thank you, and see you later, Kid Rock. We don't need hate-mongering racists in our city."

Some of those in attendance carried signs that said "When you disrespect black women, you disrespect all women," and "mute Kid Rock now."

During the press conference on Woodward Avenue across the street from the arena, Williams called for the Ilitch family to replace Made in Detroit with a black-owned restaurant.

A line forms at Kid Rock's restaurant on the main concourse at Little Caesars Arena before a Red Wings preseason game on September 23, 2017.

"Taxpayers spent $300 million to help this arena," Williams said. "We want them to replace (Made in Detroit) with a black-owned business. And we don't want them to put out a bidding process for the highest bidder, either; we want to make sure they put a business in there that'll be able to stay in there.

"We want the new restaurant to be a true taste of what the city of Detroit is all about," Williams said. "We believe this Kid Rock restaurant does not represent Detroit. Kid Rock has wrapped himself in the Confederate flag."

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Kid Rock recently made statements toward Winfrey during a profane rant on a Nashville stage. 

At his bar in Nashville last month, TMZ reports he went on a tirade (editor's note: video contains profane language) against the media mogul, also criticizing "The View" co-host Joy Behar and TV talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford.

In a Nov. 29 statement on Twitter, Kid Rock offered more detail on his beef with the businesswoman and former talk show host: "My people tried to get me to do The Oprah Winfrey show years ago and her people wanted me to write down 5 reasons why I loved her and her show… I said f--- that and her. End of story."

Rev. Charles Williams III (left) and Sam Riddle address the news media outside Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena Wednesday. The restaurant will not renew it’s lease.

Williams said of the rant: "It was clear from this video that Kid Rock has a substance abuse problem. It's unacceptable for him to be that belligerently drunk, even if he was in a bar."

Williams added that Winfrey "has been a bright light in the African American community, and for this lowlife punk rocker to say that about her is unacceptable."

Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, was singled out Wednesday in Kid Rock's Facebook post about Detroit, with Kid Rock writing: "PS - Hey Al Sharpton, you or your cronies will never beat me you tax evading, race baiting clown!"

The post ends with Kid Rock endorsing President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign and running through his big-dollar donations to Detroit institutions over the years.

Kid Rock's history with Little Caesars Arena goes back to its start in 2017. He was the venue's opening act, which the National Action Network took issue with at the time.

More:Kid Rock’s LCA act draws fans, foes

In 2011, Kid Rock received an award from the NAACP. The move by the civil rights organization sparked criticism, with detractors citing the rocker's prominent use of the Confederate flag in his concerts. At the time, the president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP defended the group's choice.

Wendell Anthony said at a March 2011 press conference that the group had "done our research" and Rock is "worthy of our recognition." 

"We believe Kid Rock's is one whose life has been co-mingled with that of African Americans, witnessed by the way he raises his African-American son," said Anthony during a news conference at Cobo Center.

"We do not believe Mr. Rock is a racist."

But dozens of protesters gathered outside Cobo Center the night of the Fight for Freedom Fund dinner where Kid Rock was given the Great Expectations award for contributions to Detroit. 

Political consultant Adolph Mongo, head of Detroiters for Progress, spoke for the picketers carrying signs.

"Do you know what that flag stands for? It stands for hatred, bigotry, racism, murder," Mongo told The Detroit News in 2011.

During Wednesday's press conference, Riddle said he was disappointed in Anthony's statement.

"As a lifelong member, I'm calling on the NAACP to rescind that award," Riddle said, adding: "Wendell Anthony has opted to carry the water for a known racist. I'm very disappointed in the Detroit NAACP; that was out of damned order."

Anthony on Tuesday released a statement denouncing Kid Rock's rant but defending the organization's award to him eight years ago.

"The recent comments made by artist Kid Rock regarding Hollywood mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, ABC host of the View Joy Behar, and singer/former host of Live with Regis and Kathy (sic) Lee, Kathy Lee Gifford, are truly unacceptable," Anthony said.

"These comments made reportedly during a state of 'obvious drunkenness' do not excuse the hurtful xenophobic and misogynistic expressions," Anthony said. "Comments such as these are evil and divisive, whether made at a concert in Nashville, Tennessee or at a football game between two high school teams at the Division 5 state semifinals in Walled Lake, Michigan."

Anthony also addressed the 2011 NAACP award: "We were recognizing someone who advocated for our city which was being attacked across the country at various levels. For the record, Kid Rock consulted with the mayor of the city of Detroit at that time, Dave Bing, to make financial contributions to non-profit organizations in the city. He provided $10,000 each to five community groups, selected by the mayor."

The groups were: the Belle Isle Conservancy, Mosaic Youth Theater, Habitat For Humanity, Youthville Detroit, and the Detroit Recreational Centers, Anthony said in the statement.

"He also gave $50,000 to storm relief efforts in tornado impacted states," Anthony said. "The Detroit Branch did not solicit nor receive any funds as a result of these contributions. We hope and pray that these organizations remain viable in these critical times."

Following Anthony's statement, Detroit political consultant Adolph Mongo released a statement of his own, criticizing the NAACP Detroit chapter president.

Tahira Ra of Detroit protests outside Kid Rock's Made In Detroit restaurant at Little Caesars Arena Wednesday after the musician announced that he will not renew the restaurant's license.

Mongo called "for that award to be withdrawn, the $10,000 Kid Rock donated to be returned, and for chapter president, Dr. Wendell Anthony, to be removed from office."

"He's taking an organization backward that needs to go forward," Mongo said. "The chapter hasn't been relevant for more than a decade. Under his leadership, the NAACP has failed to address the high unemployment rates in our communities, the high murder rates and the outrageous continuing water shut offs in Detroit.

"With all of that ... yet you award someone who belittles the community you're supposed to represent? Unbelievable," Mongo said.

Riddle, meanwhile, said he's happy the music star doesn't like him.

"Kid Rock has called me out personally," Riddle said. "I take that as a badge of honor."