The National Hockey League said Thursday that it's aware of the backlash over Kid Rock performing at the 2018 All-Star Game in Tampa, saying that the decision to hire him was "purely based" on his entertainment value and history as a hockey fan.
The 47-year-old singer has drawn attention in the last year for endorsing President Donald Trump, his history of displaying confederate flags at concerts, criticism of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protests during the national anthem and anti-transgender comments made during a concert.
The NHL's decision to have him perform at the All-Star Game was widely criticized on social media this week. It's the second time in recent months that a Kid Rock appearance created controversy in the hockey world, as the Detroit Red Wings were criticized for having him open their new arena with a concert in August 2017.
Steve Mayer, NHL executive vice president and executive producer for programming and creative development, acknowledged the All-Star Game backlash. While the NHL did consider Kid Rock's recent controversies, "our sole objective is to choose musical acts to perform at our events and entertain our fans," Mayer told ESPN in an interview Thursday.
Mayer said one reason Kid Rock was hired is because he's a longtime Red Wings fan -- one who partied with players after their 2008 Stanley Cup victory.
"Most of the time, our acts are passionate hockey fans," Mayer said. "It's all about the entertainment at the end of the day for us, and this selection was purely based on that, and the fact that Kid Rock is a hockey lover. That's simply the background here."
The NHL All-Star Game is scheduled for Jan. 28 at Amalie Arena. The NHL said Kid Rock is one of several musical acts that will appear that weekend.