By: Will Burchfield

The NHL faced sharp and immediate backlash after announcing this week that Kid Rock will perform at the 2018 All-Star Game in Tampa, but the league isn’t backing down.

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Steve Mayer, NHL executive vice president, told ESPN on Thursday that Kid Rock’s polarizing political views take a backseat to his love for hockey — specifically the Red Wings.

“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.”

A native of Macomb County and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, Kid Rock has long drawn criticism for his use of Confederate flags on stage in the early 2000s. At concerts within the last year, he’s attacked Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem and spoken out against trans people.

There were protests in Detroit when it was announced in September that the 47-year-old singer would open Little Caesars Arena. Hockey fans responded in similar fashion to the news that Kid Rock is headlining the All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

He will be one of several musical acts over the course of the weekend.

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Mayer told ESPN that while the NHL indeed considered Kid Rock’s controversial reputation, “Our sole objective is to choose musical acts to perform at our events and entertain our fans.” He added that Kid Rock is a longtime Red Wings fan.

Especially in the team’s glory years, Kid Rock was known for carousing with the players and inviting them to parties at his house in the Detroit suburbs to celebrate championships.

One prominent NHL personality, Jeremy Roenick, defended the league’s decision to go with Kid Rock, calling him a “great get.”

“I’m a huge Kid Rock fan. I’ve known him for a bunch of years now I love his music, I know how talented he is. … He’s without question going to totally entertain the fans at the All-Star Game because he loves music so much and he wants to make sure the performance he gives is all about the music, all about making people happy, all about making them sing and rock out,” Roenick told the Sporting News.

Roenick added that he’s fed up with the amount of negative feedback among fans.

“See, this is where I get driven crazy by people today. Why does anything have to do with politics or where he stands with politics when it comes to entertaining and singing to people at a sporting event? It drives me crazy,” Roenick said. “All these people have their panties so hung up they can’t even think straight.

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“They don’t understand the performance. Entertainment has nothing to do with whether he likes Trump or he doesn’t like Hillary Clinton. Let him perform, sing his songs that have nothing to do with politics. All these people have got to stop with this narrative that’s going around and the divide they’re bringing to this country. It’s driving me crazy.”