LEE COUNTY — Back in 2007, at a concert to raise money for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C., hip-hop artist Ludacris drew criticism for dropping the N-word repeatedly during his rendition of “Shake Your Money Maker.”
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott now is wondering why Florida Gulf Coast University has hired the Grammy-winning rapper to headline the Nov. 24 Eaglepalooza concert to be held at the county-owned JetBlue Park.
Scott says he is outraged that FGCU, with a black president, would invite an artist of questionable character at a time when the country is celebrating the golden anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I agree that the N-word is perhaps, if not absolutely, the most corrosive, divisive, hurtful, painful word that anybody can use in our vocabulary,” Scott said. “So I remain confused why an institution of higher learning would invite a group … that every other word out of their mouth is the N-word, the M-Fer, this ho and that ho, this bitch and that bitch, violence and references to illegal drugs.”
The FGCU Programming Board, a student-operated organization on campus, books the artists for the annual concert. Last year, rapper Wiz Khalifa, who is known for his fondness for cannabis, performed at FGCU NestFest. The Khalifa concert was held at Germain Arena, which is privately owned.
Bradshaw emailed Scott on Monday saying students had the final say about the talent for the upcoming event.
“As a university president — black or white — periodically there are expressed views related to students and faculty that the president doesn’t personally or professionally sanction or share,” Bradshaw wrote in the email. “In this case, our students indicated a strong interest in inviting these performers to Eaglepalooza, and our staff assures me they are doing everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable event for the attendees,”
Bradshaw also assured the sheriff that safety of the students is “paramount” and the school would be hiring 75 to 100 off-duty officers for the event and all attendees would be screened by metal detectors.
Bradshaw is not commenting to the media on the sheriff’s remarks regarding race, FGCU spokeswoman Susan Evans said.
Scott said the number of officers needed for security should be an immediate red flag. He said hip-hop nights in Fort Myers bring elevated security and violence. He called the Ludacris concert “hip-hop on steroids.”
“We are not going to waltz out there like we would for a baseball game or a Carrie Underwood concert,” Scott said. “I can guarantee you that.”
Scott said he contacted Bradshaw both as the sheriff and a concerned parent. Scott’s oldest daughter is a graduate of FGCU and his youngest daughter is currently a student. Scott said he is a huge supporter of Bradshaw and the university.
But he said he’s befuddled why the school would hire an act that uses the N-word as an accepted noun.
“I am completely confused, and I asked Dr. Bradshaw, a black man, to please explain how Paula Deen uses the word 30 years ago and gets nationally excoriated and these people use the word every single day, every other word out their mouth, in every single song and we are going to welcome them to a county park with the endorsement of FGCU, Dunk City,” he said.
Scott said he is also upset that FGCU officials didn’t contact the county or the sheriff’s office before signing off on this concert, which also will feature Kendrick Lamar.
“I am not so sure the cart is before the horse on this thing,” Scott said of the concert. “We have refused events before. I am not saying I am refusing the event but I hope they understand that public safety is our first concern. “
Scott said Bradshaw has the power to cancel the concert. He points back to Bradshaw’s first year at FGCU, when the president tried to ban Christmas decorations on campus. After national backlash, Bradshaw backed off his anti-Christmas stance. Scott said that was an example of controlling the message. Scott reminded Bradshaw in emails that he was in charge at FGCU and not the students.
Scott asked: "Will President Bradshaw be attending the concert, where the performer is going to be dropping the N-word every other word?"
"There isn’t any other kind of music out there, not country, not Top 40, that uses this constant barrage of profanity," Scott said. "It is against everything everyone stands for. And we are going to clap for it at a county park under the auspices of FGCU, I am completely befuddled. It doesn’t make sense."
Tickets for Eaglepalooza go on sale Sept. 13 for students and to the public one week later. Organizers are expecting 10,000 to 12,000 people to attend.