UPDATE: The organisers of Rats have issued a statement, which has been included in the article.
It was just two years back that Chris Brown was having his Australian tour posters defaced, and his tour eventually cancelled after a sustained campaign against the singer, who was famously convicted in 2009 of felony assault on his then-partner Rihanna and sentenced to five years probation – with more incidents to follow.
Now, the staff of a Melbourne club have come under fire for planning a “tribute” night to Brown this coming weekend. The event was posted earlier today, but has already been taken down following a backlash from some patrons on social media, calling the club out for paying tribute to a “serial abuser”.
The event has now been replaced by a similar ‘tribute’ night, this time to Jason Derulo – who is definitely a far less controversial figure – and a decision like this poses the question of if and when an artist can be forgiven for a history that includes such serious, violent outbursts against women.
Brown’s proposed Australian tour in December 2015 was cancelled following a high-profile petition calling for him to be barred from entering Australia due to his prior domestic violence convictions, and although he wasn’t barred from entering the country, the Australian government did issue him a warning.
Brown dismissed the controversy and claimed his visit could be used to spread awareness about domestic violence in Australia, a country that certainly has a high incidence of physical assaults on family members, but the tour was eventually cancelled regardless.
While Brown ultimately served his five year probation and six months of community service for the brutal beating and death threats directed at Rihanna, he has had continued run-ins with the law in the years since, with allegations as late as 2016 that he had attacked his former manager Mike G, and made violent threats towards tour manager Nancy Ghosh.
Artists should certainly be allowed to serve their time and get on with their lives just like everyone else, and it’s up to each individual listener to decide whether or not they still want to listen to Brown’s music. After all, there are many musicians who have admitted to terrible faults of character, and worked hard to make amends and earn back people’s respect.
It seems, though, that it’s not yet the right time to be paying ‘tribute’ to a man who just a couple of years ago was having “I beat women” plastered across his tour posters.
After reaching out to organisers for comment on the cancelled event, they have issued a statement on their Facebook page backing away from an endorsement of the singer.
“Rats is a safe space and in no way, shape or form supports any violence, especially domestic violence,” the Facebook post reads. “We sincerely apologise for inferring (sic) otherwise.”