Western Kentucky University cut ties with Lost River Pizza Co. after a photo surfaced online Thursday showing the local restaurant’s owner, Keith Coffman, wearing blackface.
“I’m sorry for it. I did it,” Coffman told the Daily News on Thursday, confirming that the photo is authentic.
The development was announced by the WKU Restaurant Group in a tweet Thursday afternoon, though the announcement did not mention the photo.
“We have learned that the local brand, Lost River Pizza Company, has some background that is inconsistent with our values. As a result, the WKU Restaurant Group has decided that the brand would not be a good fit within our restaurant portfolio. We are working to add another brand to the program and look forward to making that announcement soon,” the WKU Restaurant Group said in the tweet.
Earlier this week, WKU revealed Lost River Pizza as one of several local eateries that would headline its new WKU Commons study and dining venue, which is set to open for students in the fall.
The photo appears to show Coffman with his skin darkened while wearing a pair of white, Aviator-style sunglasses and a necklace. Coffman is pictured making the peace sign while clutching a golden, glittery microphone.
Reached Thursday, Coffman said the photo is from 13 to 14 years ago, back when singer-songwriter and rapper CeeLo Green appeared on “The Voice” with fellow music artist Christina Aguilera as vocal coaches on the show.
Coffman said he was motivated to dress up as CeeLo Green for a costume contest that year after several people told him he resembled the five-time Grammy Award-winning artist. His wife dressed as Christiana Aguilera, and together they won the contest, he said.
Coffman said that, at the time, he wasn’t aware of what blackface was and that “nobody was offended, and it wasn’t a big deal at all.”
“I didn’t realize that was anything at the time. … I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”
Coffman also said that he has a diverse friend group and that the photo does not represent who he is. The photo has circulated online because people are “trying to run my name through the mud,” he said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdaily news.com.