Hating on Chris Brown has officially entered its witch-trial phase. Look, the singer who pled guilty to beating his girlfriend Rihanna and has since compared himself to Jesus is not exactly a likable guy (see SPIN's 2012 Hall of Shame). But for all Brown's myriad crimes against common decency and good taste, meeting with a wheelchair-bound fan isn't one.
Brown appears to be the victim of an extremely unfortunate misunderstanding. As Metro Toronto reports, a little-known, difficult-to-type Canadian social media startup called Wantster has offered to pay for a sick child to come meet Brown in person. The meeting would reportedly relate to Brown's involvement with the nonprofit Kids Wish Network. Ky Joseph, a Wantster co-founder, is quoted as saying, “There's a young boy who is fighting a life-threatening illness, I don't know exactly what it is, but it's his dream to see Chris Brown and we’re going to make that happen."
Deadspin points out the "poor timing" of this press release, what with Brown potentially facing jail time and all, but his involvement with Kids Wish Network actually goes back at least several weeks earlier. Before the Hot 97 Summer Jam in New York on June 3, Brown met Mo Elrehazy, who according to the charity's Facebook page has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and cerebral palsy. You can watch a video of their meeting below. Is Brown perhaps trying to burnish his incredibly tarnished image? Sure. But does putting a smile on a young man's face really make Brown easier to dislike than he already was?
What is significant about this controversy is that it has highlighted Kids Wish Network's questionable practices. The Tampa Bay Times recently ranked Kids Wish Network as No. 1 on its list of "America's Worst Charities." And with good reason: Only three percent of money raised by the nonprofit organization actually goes toward kids, according to the report. (The group told the Times, "There are more than 100,000 children and their families in whose lives Kids Wish Network has helped make a positive difference.")
Again, though, Brown doesn't stand out as being a bad dude in this. Photographs of Justin Timberlake and Brad Paisley also appear on Kids Wish Network's Facebook page. Okay, so Timberlake might have shown an extreme lack of sensitivity toward a leading organization fighting sexual assault, and Paisley, well, too bad about "Accidental Racist," huh? But the point is singling out Brown might be more about how nicely he drives traffic (thanks, Chris!) than any specific thing he has done wrong this time. Look, Tyra Banks is involved, too. If anything, this situation is just the latest example of Brown always handling matters poorly: If Brown had to work with a charity, of course he'd pick the one deemed the worst.
All that said, there's still plenty here that's ugly. Let's rewind: That social-media co-founder wants to help a Brown fan who is "fighting a life-threatening illness, I don't know exactly what it is"? Um. That's not exactly a portrait of compassion. (Wantster has since announced it is no longer teaming with the Kids Wish Network and will find an alternative partner. Wantster is still sponsoring Canada's Energy Rush concert series, which lost backers after naming Brown as a performer.) And then, as usual when you're looking for a reason to resume disliking Brown, there are the words of the man himself. Here he is on Twitter yesterday: "Give back because it's in your heart. Not for a pat on the back." Wha?! That's actually sort of reasonable. Hmm, maybe he wrote something obnoxiously self-important a couple of days earlier. Yup: "My cross is heavy but God gives me the strength to carry it." Chris Brown is the Internet's shepherd; we shall not want.