Michael Jackson statue removed from museum following abuse claims
A statue of Michael Jackson has been removed from Britain’s National Football Museum in the wake of fresh allegations of sexual abuse that continue to surround the pop superstar’s legacy.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck accused Jackson of sexually abusing them over a period of several years when they were children in a four-hour documentary “Leaving Neverland,” the first part of which aired in the UK on Wednesday.
Jackson’s family has pushed back against the film, calling it a “public lynching.” The musician’s estate is suing HBO, which co-produced the documentary. HBO shares its parent company, WarnerMedia, with CNN.
The soccer museum in Manchester, England, has displayed the statue since 2014 but removed it from display this week.
The plaster and resin artwork was initially unveiled in 2011 at Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium by the club’s then-owner Mohamed Al Fayed, who was friends with the singer. Jackson visited the west London ground as a guest of Al Fayed in 1999, watching Fulham play a second-tier match against Wigan Athletic.
But the monument was roundly mocked by fans and was removed by the club’s current owner Shahid Khan, who also owns NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, when he took over in 2013. It was subsequently replaced with a statue of former Fulham player George Cohen.
A spokeswoman for the museum said: “The National Football Museum has made a number of changes to its exhibitions and the objects on display over the last few months.
“As part of our ongoing plans to better represent the stories we want to tell, we have made a decision to remove the Michael Jackson statue from display.”
Although the museum did not explicitly connect the statue’s removal to allegations against the singer, the fallout from “Leaving Neverland” has led to some fans boycotting the singer and has prompted radio stations in Canada and New Zealand to stop playing his music.
Fans of Jackson, who died in 2009, protested outside the London headquarters of UK broadcaster Channel 4, which aired the first part of the documentary on Wednesday.
The film details disturbing claims that Jackson groomed and molested Robson and Safechuck for several years.
Robson, now 36, first met Jackson when he was about five years old in his native Australia. He said he stayed with Jackson at his Neverland Ranch in California on several occasions.
Safechuck, now 41, appeared in a Pepsi commercial as a child with Jackson and said he was also a frequent visitor to the singer’s home.
Jackson’s family has denied the allegations and condemned the documentary, calling Jackson’s accusers “admitted liars,” in reference to sworn statements made by both Safechuck and Robson while Jackson was alive that he did not molest them.
The family also said in their statement that “Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT.”
Jackson was the subject of two high-profile abuse cases during his career.
In 1993, a 13-year-old accused Jackson of sexually molesting him repeatedly over a five-month period. The boy said that Jackson bathed with him, shared a bed with him, gave him gifts and fondled him.
It was reported in 2004 that Jackson paid approximately $25 million to settle a civil suit with that alleged victim.
In 2003, Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation for allegations from a cancer-stricken boy invited to the star’s home. The boy said he was 13 when Jackson served him alcohol and fondled him. Jackson was acquitted of the charges, and maintained his innocence until his death.