Black clergy call for boycott of Word Network after white owner is accused of racial insensitivity

The controversial image of Kevin Adell suggesting his control of black preachers that many find offensive.
The controversial image of Kevin Adell suggesting his control of black preachers that many find offensive. | Photo:

More than 100 prominent black clergy have signed a petition calling for a boycott of the Word Network after Kevin Adell, the network’s white owner and CEO, was accused of  racial insensitivity.

“Recently, his actions have shown that even though he has profited off of the Black community, Mr. Adell does not have regard for Black humanity,” the petition that has garnered more than 3,000 signatures in six days, said.

The World Network is billed as “the largest, African-American religious network in the WORLD!”

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Among the protesting preachers are: Archbishop E. Bernard Jordan, Zoe Ministries; pastor Debra Jordan, Zoe Ministries; pastor Larry Reid, Larry Reid Live; Vickie Yohe, Christian recording artist; Paul Crouch Jr., Impact Network; Lisa Sharon Harper, Freedom Roads; the Rev. Anita Faye-Wilson; apostle Travis Wright; the Rev. Yolanda Brown, Center of Destiny Ministries; and the Rev. Peter Heltzel.

At the center of the allegations against Adell is Bishop George Bloomer, 56, a longtime televangelist and founder of Bethel Family Worship Center, a multicultural ministry in Durham, North Carolina. The petition alleges that Bloomer recently left the network as a result of the allegations against Adell.

Bloomer alleges that in September, Adell texted a photoshopped image of himself dressed as a pimp surrounded by well-known black clergy he called “hoes” to various staff members, many of whom are black. Bloomer was including in the text.

“When Bishop Bloomer stated: ‘This is not funny. This is not good. That pimp talk and hoe talk has racist connotations for Black people.’ Adell texted Bishop Bloomer a second time and said that ‘it’s funny and he should get over it,’” the petition said.

Bloomer then went to Adell and his assistant in person at The Word Network and told them: “Don’t ever tweet that. You should get rid of it. This is not funny. Don’t play with this and don’t play with it with me.”

Rather than apologizing, Adell allegedly photoshopped a picture of Bishop Bloomer in a white tuxedo into the image and added text underneath it that said: “The show last night was good, Tattoo (the dwarf from Fantasy Island who ran around calling Mr. Roarke ‘Boss’).”

“Kevin Adell was alluding to Bishop Bloomer being HIS Tattoo, and him being ‘Boss.’ Although Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island was a good character, the term ‘boss’ in the Black community carries the connotation of ‘massa,’ and that is precisely what Kevin Adell was suggesting. The article that accompanied the photoshopped image of Kevin as a pimp and his hoes even refers to him as the ‘massa’ of The Word Network,” the petition said.

When Bloomer pushed back warning Adell that “This is not good. I don’t know what you’re doing but stop playing,” Adell replied, “Oh, you’re too sensitive.” 

The disagreement over the image ended with Bloomer’s decision to leave the Word Network.

“During these times of increased incidents of hate across our country, we as African-American clergy and allies of the African-American community cannot remain silent in the face of this blatant racism. Black-face, pimp and hoe imagery, boss aka ‘massa’ comments, all are connected to the historical trauma African-Americans have endured for 400 years in this country,” the petition explained.

“To ignore Bishop Bloomer’s respectful request to end this line of text and comments is to ignore the dignity of the African-American community. Kevin Adell may own The Word Network but it is the Black community that made the network a success. If the Black community is not respected by The Word Network then we should pull our support from this network,” it continued. “The actions of Kevin Adell prove that we can no longer trust The Word Network to bring the Gospel into our homes. We, as Black clergy, demand Kevin Adell publicly apologize to Bishop Bloomer and the African-American community. We also demand that cable companies drop The Word Network from their packages.”

When asked about the allegations Thursday, a representative of The Word Network said Adell was not immediately available to speak and no one else at the organization could respond.

In a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday, Jamal Bryant, leader of the popular New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, Georgia, confirmed that Bloomer had shared his concerns about Adell with him shortly after the alleged racial incident unfolded.

He said he offered to mediate the situation and went to the Word Network to meet with Adell.

“I go in and talk to Mr. Adell, find out what happened. Says all that Bishop Bloomer wants, two things. He wants a letter saying that he operated in the utmost integrity. No. 2, that he has had no misappropriation of funds,” said Bryant.

“Mr. Adell says ‘No. I’m not gonna write this letter because I didn’t put anything out. I haven’t said anything in public space and hence we have a bumping of heads. So for the last 10 days I have been silent watching this blow out,” he said.

Kevin Adell (pictured) co-founded The Word Network in February of 2000 with his father the late Franklin Z Adell.
Kevin Adell (pictured) co-founded The Word Network in February of 2000 with his father the late Franklin Z Adell. | WADL Detroit

Bryant then noted that when he was approached about the boycott of the network he thought about many things, including the fact that 147 of the network’s 150 employees are black.

He further pointed out that David Sheffield, the network’s general manager, a black man who just turned 40, “is the youngest president of any network, secular or sacred.”

“I said now, my mentor, Rev. Al Sharpton, is on the radio station owned by the Word Network Monday through Friday from 3 to 6,” he said, noting how the network is now in correctional facilities reaching people with the Gospel.

“The epiphany dawned on me yesterday while I am sitting in the pulpit of Martin Luther King Jr. The Spirit said to me, Jamal, you are in Montgomery, Alabama, the home of the Montgomery bus boycott. We are the masters of boycotts. What do you learn from us? And what I learned from the Montgomery bus boycotts is you don’t have a boycott without an ask,” he said.

Bryant said even though he knows Adell was wrong and Bloomer is owed an apology, he urged black preachers and black businesses to come up with a solution to buy the network rather than simply pushing for a boycott. If they are unable to buy the network, he said, they should purchase shares so they can make a difference.

“I am not gonna do an internet protest for likes if we’re not really about doing the business. I want to do the business,” he said.

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