Bethel didn’t know the rapper was coming until Jan. 22. Ten days later, he walked through the door.
By Abby Petersen
There was something about the 6-foot-4-inch man who walked through the Community Life Center and up the stairs to Benson Great Hall the night of Feb. 1. Something that made people whip out their iPhones and snap photos.
Maybe it was his blue fur coat, that stretched to his knees.
Maybe it was his net worth of about $135 million.
Or maybe it was because the tall man in the blue fur coat was 46-year-old rapper Snoop Dogg.
The California-based artist performed at Bethel Feb. 1 as the headliner of the 19th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, an NFL-sanctioned event. Bethel had the opportunity to host the event this year because Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl for the first time since 1992.
The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 at U.S. Bank Stadium Feb. 4, fewer than 10 miles from Bethel’s gates.
Lakewood Church associate pastor John Gray and Nigerian-American actress Yvonne Orji co-hosted the gospel celebration. NFL players – including Jameis Winston, Eric Reid and Gerald McCoy – shared testimonies on stage. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson won the 2018 Faith in Action Award at the event. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald received the 2018 Lifetime of Inspiration Award. Sounds of Blackness, Mary Mary, Faith Evans and Snoop Dogg all performed.
The celebration itself was booked at Bethel by October, according to Bethel’s Director of Communication Suzanne McInroy. Snoop Dogg’s performance wasn’t announced to Bethel administration until Jan. 22, when administrators were told he would be performing songs from his upcoming gospel album.
“Overall, the administration was fine with the news, but they did expect mixed reactions from Bethel community members,” McInroy said in an email to The Clarion. “We had a contract with the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration and at no point did we consider breaking that contract.”
Campus Ministries Dean Laurel Bunker posted on Facebook Jan. 25 that people think “Bethel is going to hell for allowing this man on stage at Bethel.” Bunker also addressed the issue in chapel.
Melanie Few, founder of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, said Feb. 1 that Snoop Dogg was the first “secular” artist to headline the event, and defended the decision because of the content of his upcoming album, Bible of Love.
Singer Erica Campbell, part of the musical group Mary Mary, commented on the controversy at the red carpet that night.
“I think religious people try to designate who can and can’t praise God,” Campbell said.
Events like the celebration go through Bethel’s Office of Conference and Event Services for approval, and profit from the events goes toward the office’s revenue goals, which then go toward the university’s overall revenue goals.
According to McInroy, those revenues and revenue goals are not shared publicly.
“We had a few donors and alumni who were upset, but we also had a number of alumni and donors who were very encouraging with their comments and pleased to see Bethel step out in faith and trust that this concert would be glorifying to God, which it was,” McInroy said.
As for Snoop Dogg? He performed on-stage in Benson Great Hall as planned that night, clad in a long robe. The performance aired multiple times during Super Bowl weekend on Black Entertainment Television, which filmed the event.
“The record’s all about love from start to finish,” Snoop Dogg said. “That’s the way you change the world, by putting love in it.”