After the release of the documentary Leaving Neverland, several artists, institutions and radio stations are wrestling with a difficult question: should his music still be played?
Leaving Neverland focuses on the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom knew Jackson as children and have accused the late singer of serious and sustained sexual abuse.
In light of these further allegations (Jackson also faced molestation accusations in 1993 and 2004) there has been renewed interest in the social media campaign #MuteMichaelJackson.
Here are some of the celebrities, organisations and media platforms that appear to be distancing themselves Jackson's work.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is removing three Michael Jackson items from display after the release of Leaving Neverland.
The late singer’s white gloves and fedora will no longer feature in exhibitions, and a signed poster will also be taken down. It is not clear whether the removal of Jackson paraphernalia will be temporary or permanent.
The museum’s spokesperson said in a statement: “We are very sensitive to our audience. In an excess of caution, and in response to the controversy over the HBO film called Leaving Neverland, which directly involved allegations of abuse against children, we removed those objects while we carefully consider the situation more fully.”
However, the museum do not intend to remove the photos of Jackson that are part of the Ryan White exhibition. This display is devoted to a boy from Indiana, who contracted HIV through a blood treatment in the 1980s. Jackson befriended the child, and pictures of the singer are featured in the museum’s re-creation of White’s bedroom.
A spokesperson explained, “Ryan’s family found Michael Jackson's kindness to them to be an important part of Ryan's story and the pictures of Michael displayed in that exhibit will always be an integral part of the Ryan White story.”
During Paris Fashion week, Louis Vuitton showcased an upcoming menswear collection that featured various pieces inspired by Michael Jackson. The fashion show took place just over a week before the documentary Leaving Neverland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Now, Louis Vuitton has removed the Jackson-themed items from this collection. According to The Guardian, the garments included a jacket based on the one worn in the video for Beat It and a T-shirt printed with images of the late singer’s socks and loafers.
Virgil Abloh, men’s artistic director at fashion house, told WWD: “I am aware that in light of this documentary the show has caused emotional reactions. I strictly condemn any form of child abuse, violence or infringement against any human rights.”
He added: “My intention for this show was to refer to Michael Jackson as a pop culture artist. It referred only to his public life that we all know and to his legacy that has influenced a whole generation of artists and designers.”
The rapper has reportedly dropped the song Don't Matter To Me featuring Michael Jackson from his latest set list. The song was the result of a posthumous collaboration: Drake sampled an unreleased 1983 Jackson recording for the track.
Drake performed Don't Matter To Me while on tour in America last year, but it was not included in his Manchester concert on March 10. Drake has not confirmed whether this exclusion was a conscious choice.
The Los Angeles Lakers
The American basketball team are no longer including the Jackson song Beat It as part of their in-game entertainment.
ESPN Lakers reporter Dave McMenamin tweeted that Jackson’s song has been replaced with hits from Nirvana and Chuck Berry in the wake of Leaving Neverland’s release.
People are pointing out that Chuck Berry, who was arrested for taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines for “immoral purposes”, should be excluded on a similar basis to Jackson.
The Lakers’ Air Band Cam getting fans to imitate Lance Stephenson’s air guitar featured Micheal Jackson’s “Beat It” as the musician accompaniment most of the season. Since “Leaving Neverland” aired, they’ve switched to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Nirvana pic.twitter.com/AlLxXOoNtZ— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 10, 2019
A well-known episode of the long-running cartoon that features a vocal performance from Jackson is being removed from circulation. The episode, called Stark Raving Dad, was originally released in 1991. Jackson plays Leon Kompowsky – a man that Homer meets in a mental institution who believes himself to be the famous singer. The episode will no longer be broadcast on TV, streamed online or appear on future DVDs.
Executive producer James L. Brooks told the Wall Street Journal that pulling the episode “feels clearly the only choice to make.”
He implied that fellow producers Matt Groening and Al Jean supported the decision, saying: “The guys I work with – where we spend our lives arguing over jokes – were of one mind on this.” He added, “this was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain.”
Brooks further explained: “I’m against book-burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter.”
No UK radio station has taken a firm public stand against Jackson's tracks. BBC Radio 2 appeared to have quietly dropped Jackson's music, as a report from The Times revealed that the station hadn't played a Jackson song since February 23. But a spokeswoman for the BBC labelled the report “incorrect” and the broadcaster released a statement saying, “we consider each piece of music on its merits, and decisions on what we play on different networks are always made with relevant audiences and context in mind.”
However, stations do seem to be their losing their taste for Jackson's music in light of the documentary. According to Nielsen Music, radio airplay (across all monitored U.S. terrestrial and satellite radio stations) dropped by 13 percent between March 3 and 5.
Several major radio stations have stated that they will no longer play Jackson’s music. The commercial broadcaster MediaWorks, based in New Zealand, explained their decision: “This is a reflection of our audiences and their preferences – it is our job to ensure our radio stations are playing the music people want to hear.”
Rival broadcaster NZME is also currently abstaining from featuring Jackson on their playlists. These organisations join several major Canadian radio stations, including those run by Cogeco Media, who are no longer playing the man once crowned “The King Pop”.