The L.A. Lakers are the latest institution to put distance between themselves and Michael Jackson in the wake of the Leaving Neverland documentary, MSN is reporting. The team has dropped his song, “Beat It,” from their in-game entertainment lineup.
Almost all professional sports teams provide their fans with something to watch during lulls in the action, such as a timeout or a commercial break, and the Lakers are no different. Among the many different bits of entertainment they bring out when there is no action on the court is the “Air Band Cam” bit, where the camera pans around the crowd and whomever it stops on is expected to pretend to play ripping guitar riffs, with the video being shown on the Jumbotron for the amusement of the other fans.
For years, that bit has included, among other songs, Jackson’s 1982 hit “Beat It.” However, on Saturday night, ESPN Lakers reporter Dave McMenamin tweeted that “Beat It” had been replaced by two other songs.
“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.”
Kyrie and the Celtics hand LeBron and the Lakers their 5th straight loss. pic.twitter.com/SWpe6DKwjY— ESPN (@espn) March 10, 2019
The decision, which the team does not appear to have publicly announced or commented on, comes in the wake of the damning documentary, Leaving Neverland, which focuses on two adult men who claim that Jackson sexually abused them in their youth.
Ditching a Michael Jackson song in favor of a Chuck Berry song might not have been the best move for the team if they’re going to make their entertainment decisions based on morality, says Complex writer FNR ZAY. They note that Berry was found guilty in 1959 of taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines for “immoral purposes,” for which he served two years. Similarly, in 1990, Berry was given a suspended sentence for installing surveillance cameras in the women’s restrooms in the restaurants he owned and taking the tapes home with him.
The Lakers are just the latest in an ever-expanding list of institutions that are distancing themselves from the late Michael Jackson in the wake of the documentary. For example, as reported by The Inquisitr, the management group that owns the rights to the syndication of The Simpsons has pulled a 1991 episode, in which Jackson provided the voice of a character, from all future airings. Further, the episode won’t appear on any Simpsons DVD reissues.
Along the same lines, CNN reports that radio stations in Canada and New Zealand have banned all Michael Jackson songs from their playlists.