PolitiFact: ‘Stand your ground’ boycott a Wonder, but little else

This article was edited for length. To see a complete version and its sources, go to www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2013/jul/23/instagram-posts/are-jay-z-justin-timberlake-and-rihanna-joining-st/.

Dozens of artists, including Justin Timberlake, Jay Z and Rihanna, are canceling Florida shows like Stevie Wonder in protest of “stand your ground.”

Instagram posts on Sunday

Did you hear?

Dozens of the world’s hottest musical acts are joining music legend Stevie Wonder in protest of Florida’s “stand your ground” law after the George Zimmerman trial, according to social networks and the blogosphere. They include Justin Timberlake, Jay Z, Rihanna, Rod Stewart, Patti LaBelle, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alicia Keys, Usher, will.i.am, R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Ciara and Kelly Rowland.

Timberlake is singled out for nixing the kickoff of his tour in Miami because he refused “TO ENTERTAIN A STATE WHO’S GOVERNMENT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO SHOOT-N-KILL UN-ARMED TEENAGERS!”

The PSA first caught PolitiFact Florida’s eye when it was shared in Instagram. Versions of the list then trickled into mainstream coverage.

We are skeptical of chain emails and the like that are typed in ALL CAPS, contain misspellings and do not disclose their sources. The meme we’ve seen (which touts the misspelled names of RIHANA and ALISHIA KEYS as signing on) is a triple whammy.

We decided to investigate. Our synopsis: Just because it’s in the news does not make it true.

Adding names to Wonder’s boycott

Talk of Florida boycotts started July 14, the day after Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict in the death of Trayvon Martin. Wonder announced then that he will not perform in Florida until the 2005 “stand your ground” law is abolished.

He took it a step further: “As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.” (More than 20 other states have similar “stand your ground” laws.)

Several musical artists and celebrities reacted to the verdict with anger and disbelief. Many gave musical tributes to Martin, including Beyonce, Young Jeezy, Jay Z and Timberlake, LaBelle, Bruce Springsteen and Wyclef Jean.

But none of the artists on the Instagram list — even those who have spoken out against the verdict — publicly announced they are joining Wonder’s boycott.

Still, it wasn’t long before the story crossed over into news coverage. American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan cited “sources close to Stevie Wonder camp” for her July 22 report that claimed a similar slate of artists are joining him in support of changing “stand your ground.” Some have already called off concerts, she wrote.

Her report was picked up by congressional newspaper The Hill and the Huffington Post on July 22. The next day, more newspapers picked it up but tried to add a little caution.

Ryan’s list contained two groups that were not on the Instagram roundup: Eddie Levert, lead singer of the R&B group The O’Jays, and gospel duo Mary Mary. These are the only artists from Ryan’s list of 23 artists who have announced they are joining Wonder’s effort.

Ryan has since updated her post with a disclaimer: “I obtained from multiple sources early Monday a list of artists and entertainers who my sources told me had committed to a boycott of Florida following the George Zimmerman acquittal. Since publishing that list I have heard from several representatives of the artists named who say, on behalf of their clients, they are uncomfortable being identified on that list and are seeking additional information.”

The Huffington Post, hearing from artists’ reps that the list was not true (but not willing to go on the record), later wrote a story discrediting its original post.

The shows still go on

We did our own reporting. Most of the artists do not have upcoming tour dates in Florida.

“This leg of Rod Stewart’s tour hasn’t ever included Florida dates, so that isn’t accurate,” said Hannah Kampf, a spokeswoman for Stewart.

Timberlake and Jay Z do have their shared “Legends of the Summer” concert on Aug. 16 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Timberlake has another concert planned for December in Orlando.

If the show is off, no one told the ticket vendors, updated either artist’s website or informed the venues. Sun Life Stadium tweeted us that the concert “is on as scheduled.”

Our ruling

The Internet is rife with claims of Stevie Wonder’s beefed-up Florida boycott. It’s short on proof.

Most of the stars identified in social media lists may have spoken out against the verdict or in support of Trayvon Martin, but we haven’t seen them go the extra mile and call off shows until the “stand your ground” law is abolished. With the exception of two smaller acts that aren’t included in some iterations of the meme, we could not find evidence to back up the notion that scores of acts are joining Wonder’s boycott.

We rate this statement False.