I recently watched a segment on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Luther Campbell (aka Uncle Luke, aka Luke Skyywalker) of 2 Live Crew fame. For those who don’t remember 2 Live Crew; they became famous in the late 80’s/early 90’s for 2 things. 1. Songs like: “Pop that Pussy,” “Me So Horny,” and “Face Down Ass Up” and 2. Being arrested after performing those very songs, charged with obscenity then later acquitted of the charges in a court of law.
Of course being Real Sports, the segment wasn’t a 2 Live Crew career retrospective. It was instead about front man Luther Campbell’s new career; high school football coach.
A short preview of the Real Sports segment (Sorry but you have to be a HBO subscriber to see the full interview).
The story was basically a puff piece focused on Campbell’s coaching career and the sacrifices he makes for the kids he coaches. But as I watched, a few things Campbell said stood out to me. While discussing the life lessons he tries to impart on his kids for example, ‘Coach Luke’ as he’s now called, mentions things like “accountability, responsibility and being a man” just before laying out the rules he has for his players;
“One, you gonna maintain you grade point average… you’re not gonna use no profanity, cause you ain’t no adult. And you’re not gonna disrespect no girl. Not no woman… under no circumstances. That’s not tolerated.”
Interviewer Jon Frankel’s response; “those are funny words coming from a guy who sang the songs he did” surely reflected the thinking of most viewers familiar with Campbell’s history. As I watched, I got to thinking about accountability and what it means for a man, particularly a public figure like Campbell, to grow and be accepted as a changed person in modern society.
You may not know this about me, but I used to co-lead batterer intervention groups for African-American men. The participants were (typically) court ordered to participate because they abused their wives or girlfriends. I worked with men who committed all sorts of violence, ranging from verbal and emotional abuse to physical acts like hitting, kicking and even stabbing their partners. The intervention model we used was big on accountability. Accountability in this sense meant participants had to state and take full responsibility for all of their abuse and understand how their actions harmed their partner(s) and kids. This was important because all of these men vigorously victim blamed, minimized and denied some, if not all, of their actions. As a result classes often felt like a live read through of “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy;
Me: “so you slapped your wife?”
Abuser: “it wasn’t me.”
Me: “here’s the police report. It says the neighbors saw you slap her.”
Abuser: “it wasn’t me.”
Me: “here’s a video of you slapping your wife in public.”
Abuser: “It wasn’t me. Besides, she was asking for it…”
I bring this up because after watching Campbell’s interview I’m not sure that he’s managed to hold himself fully accountable for his past objectification and demeaning of women. Take this exchange for example:
Frankel: “…your album glorified, celebrated sexual brutalization…”
Frankel: “and in a sense was a road map for sex abuse, was teaching kids…”
Campbell: “Nah, those were joke songs. Some people just took them too serious.”
Based on that exchange Campbell doesn’t sound like a man who fully understands the impact his music may have had on boys and men and the way they in turn treat women. Plus, the piece later points out that Campbell still makes appearances as Uncle Luke and occasionally performs 2 Live Crew songs. Full accountability? Certainly not by my definition. Speak to me when he admits that his music objectified and demeaned women. Let me know when instead of performing 2 Live Crew songs, Uncle Luke publicly speaks out against music like his.
Let me be clear, I’m not against Luther Campbell and his new direction, nor do I want him to fail. Quite the contrary actually. I very much hope that Coach Luke is the real deal. I want his messages about accountability and respecting women to sink in. My point is, based on what I saw in that HBO interview, Campbell is still a few steps shy of full accountability and this will in the end hinder his efforts.
Saying “don’t disrespect girls” is a lot like saying “just say no” or “don’t have sex.” All three of these statements need definition and detail to have any real world applicability. Hearing your coach talk about not disrespecting girls in one breath while on stage yelling “face down ass up, that’s the way we like to fuck!” in the next is the very picture of mixed messaging. Again, it’s going to undercut the work he does with these young men. At the very least it’ll confuse the shit out of them.
It would have also been nice to hear Campbell explain his shift from infamous objectifer to coach “not gonna disrespect no girl.” We all know that despite the power of the platform, respecting women (sadly) isn’t a prerequisite for coaching success. Surely his desire to coach wasn’t the sole motivator then? Was it guilt? Maybe he’s just reciting empty words, added to appease those who fought against his hiring? I want to believe that his motivations are pure, that Coach Luke is indeed headed in the right direction, but this puff piece creates far more questions than it answers.
Here’s the thing; whether it’s Luther Campbell or others like him, we need more men who are willing to go all the way in renouncing their past mistakes, take full accountability and rise up to help guide the next generation of men to be better than the generation before. Campbell is in the perfect position to do this. So how about it Coach Luke? You have the platform, will you stop playing games and fully embrace it?
Readers, what do you think? Am I being to hard on Coach Luke? Do you think his past should have kept him from coaching to begin with? I’d love to hear your thoughts.