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Comedian to drop blackface routine for F.O.P. event

ELIZABETH HEFFNER
Staff Writer

Willie P. Richardson is still expected to perform for the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #85’s comedy concert, but he will not do so until this fall, sans blackface.
Fraternal Order of Police president, police lieutenant Brian Greene, released the organization’s statement to the Times-News on Tuesday. The statement offers a timeline of events, beginning with Richardson’s initial contact with the members of Lodge #85 in April. According to the release, Richardson was also recommended by a Fraternal Order of Police located in another state.
“There is no indication that any of our members knew the race of Willie P. Richardson,” the release said. “Lodge #85 had no reason to expect controversy with the race of Willie P. Richardson because race has never been a factor in any discussion or event with our lodge. Lodge #85 is a diverse organization made up of police officers and sheriff’s deputies from local law enforcement agencies. Members of all races voted to have the comedy benefit concert with Willie P. Richardson. The fact is the race of Willie P. Richardson was never discussed.”
The statement said most of the F.O.P. membership is familiar with Richardson from the radio show, “The Big Show with John Boy & Billy,” as well as through a local firefighter’s association that hosted a comedy benefit concert with the comedian in previous years.
“No one can recall any controversy or race discussion over that benefit concert,” the release said. “Lodge #85 had no reason to expect controversy with Willie P. Richardson.”
F.O.P. Lodge #85 members then expressed their disappointment with the Lincoln County Branch of the NAACP.
According to the press release, the members first learned about the NAACP’s complaint the afternoon of June 5, after receiving word from an area media outlet. It was not until the morning of June 6 that Lodge #85 was notified.
“In the complaint, the NAACP states, ‘If there has ever been a time for unity, today is the time!’” the FOP Lodge #85 release said. “If the Lincoln County Branch of the NAACP was concerned about UNITY, they would have contacted Lodge#85 first, instead of the day after they contacted the press. It appears they were more interested in drawing attention to themselves through division in our community.”
Lodge #85 also expressed their disappointment in how the Times-News chose to handle the story. In their release, it states that this reporter first contacted Greene for a comment. Greene offered a “no comment statement,” citing that Lodge #85 is a membership organization, and only the membership could vote to change an event already approved by the membership.
This reporter reached out to Greene again on June 8, informing him that the Times-News would be running a story in Monday’s edition. After requesting a postponement of the story until Lodge #85 had an opportunity to meet to discuss the complaint and issue the response, the press release alleges that this reporter advised Greene that she could not wait “…because her editor wanted to be first, and that since the state NAACP had been notified, they were afraid someone else would report the story before them.”
The statement continued by referencing the Times-News opinion article, “Better toe the line,” from the newspaper’s Monday edition.
“The story the Lincoln Times-News chose to run on Monday, June 9, 2014, concerning Lodge #85 and the NAACP was unfair and incomplete,” the release said. “We hope in the future publisher Jerry G. Leedy and managing editor Michael Gebelein will choose to follow their own beliefs with fair and complete stories instead of trying to just be first.”
Due to obligations with Lincolnton’s 2014 Hog Happenin’ event, the press release said that the earliest the members could schedule a meeting was June 9.
“A diverse group of our members unanimously voted to continue with the comedy benefit concert featuring Willie P. Richardson,” the release stated. “The motion was made by an African American member and seconded by another African American member of Lodge #85. Willie P. Richardson will not perform in makeup or ‘blackface.”
The FOP Lodge #85 has opted to postpone their comedy benefit concert, which was originally set for June 28, to give them more time to “promote the truth about our comedy concert.” The concert has been rescheduled to August 16 at the Lincoln County Citizen’s Center.
Those interested in viewing the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #85 press release in full should visit http://www.ncfop85.com/ or their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FOPlodge85.

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