As we reported here, Ne-Yo was among the featured performers billed to tribute George Floyd at his memorial hosted in Houston, TX (June 8).
On hand to sing Boyz II Men‘s ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye,’ the GRAMMY-winner made headlines for breaking down at multiple junctures during the heartfelt showing. But, while many have applauded the singer-songwriter (born Shaffer Smith) for his attempts to maintain his composure, others are criticizing the speech he rendered before launching into the song.
Prefacing his performance with a statement alluding to Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer as being a ‘sacrifice’ for a greater cause, the comments were met with fury.
So much so, Smith took to social media to clarify.
As seen in the video above, Ne-Yo stated (at the :16 second mark):
“Fifty states are protesting at the same time, this man changed the world. I just want to thank George Floyd for the sacrifice so my kids can be all right. I appreciate the sacrifice, I really do.”
Once some social media users got wind of his comments, they launched a critical tirade – many branding his word choice as ‘insensitive.’ After the hoopla reached his desk, he responded:
“…I never said he was a ‘willing’ sacrifice. But the sacrifice of his life was the spark that was apparently needed to create the energy for change. It’s sad that it took this kind of sacrifice to finally open America’s eyes even the little bit we have. But the unfortunate truth is the world has not united like this in the name of justice for black people EVER. I’m addressing this comment because ignorance divides and we don’t need that right now.”
He followed the previous statement by saying:
“I’m going out of my way to explain what I meant because we are all in the same fight and can’t leave anyone behind. I have the utmost respect for George Floyd, his family and the UNWILLING SACRIFICE HE MADE for black people everywhere.”
The sentiment was also supported by his wife, Crystal Smith, who used her social media platform to defend him.
“We thank Jesus for his sacrifice everyday but of course it wasn’t a willing sacrifice! Stop dissecting every word someone says especially when they flew to pay their respects to someone respectfully!! We have to stop tearing down our own brothers and sisters who have nothing but good intentions and love in everything they do!
And that’s just that on that! redirect your energy to what matters right now!”