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Kirk Franklin’s son released explicit audio of the gospel singer’s threats: ‘I will break your neck’

Kirk Franklin performs at the Dove Awards on Oct. 15, 2019, in Nashville. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

An ugly family exchange was thrust into public view Saturday when Kirk Franklin’s estranged son published audio of the gospel legend berating him in a profanity-laden phone call that ends with his father screaming, “I will break your neck. Don’t you ever disrespect me.”

The elder Franklin, 51, is a beloved and influential figure in the gospel music world and is widely credited with popularizing modern gospel in the mainstream. He posted an apology to his fans later that night that drew even more attention — and polarized reactions — to the rancorous father-son exchange. By Sunday, “Kirk Franklin” was a Twitter trending topic.

Kerrion Franklin, 32, posted a clip of the exchange on Instagram on Saturday and included a caption that said he doesn’t feel safe around his father. “I don’t think I’ll ever trust my father to be alone around him ever again,” he wrote.

After a muffled argument, the elder Franklin is heard in the audio telling his son, ″You need to get your … a-- out of the way before I break my foot off in your a--."

“I dare you,” the son shoots back, before cursing and telling his father to shut up. Franklin erupts with, “I will break your neck” and abruptly ends the call.

“'I’ll break your neck'? Is that a threat?” Kerrion muses aloud in the video clip once his father is off the line.

In the direct-to-camera apology that Kirk Franklin shared across his official social media profiles late Saturday, he called his family’s relationship with his eldest son “toxic.”

“Recently, my son and I had an argument that he chose to record. I felt extremely disrespected in that conversation, and I lost my temper. And I said words that are not appropriate. And I’m sincerely sorry to all of you. I sincerely apologize,” Franklin said.

Franklin said the family has engaged in counseling for years to “rectify this private family matter” and claimed his son selectively excluded a portion from their explosive call in which Franklin tried to bring in the family’s therapist.

He ended his apology asking for prayers.

Kirk Franklin boycotts gospel awards show after comments on black violence edited on TV

Neither Kirk nor Kerrion Franklin could be reached for comment Sunday, and it remains unclear what prompted their argument. But the viral phone conversation is not the first time Kerrion Franklin has indicated there was a deep rift between him and his father. In 2018, he claimed in a since-deleted Instagram post that his father was trying to kill him. In more recent posts, he said he has been estranged from his family for 14 years and repeatedly denied invitations to family dinners and holiday gatherings.

On Sunday, he hinted that a “full interview” was forthcoming.

While such private-made-public disputes appear to offer a view into the personal lives of famous figures, it’s the public’s reaction that is actually more revealing, sociologist Robert Reece said. Social media exacerbates the idea that in cases like the Franklins’ fight, people have to side with either the parent or the child — as if the issues offer clear-cut binary choices.

Reactions to the Franklins’ story capture some of the slowly shifting attitudes in the United States around parental power dynamics, which he called especially complex in the Black community.

“Black parents sometimes think that this type of tough love is necessary to prepare our kids to navigate this hostile world,” Reece said. He also characterized Kirk Franklin’s comments to his son as abusive.

“I don’t want this to just be about ‘Kirk Franklin is a bad person’ — that doesn’t do it justice,” Reece said. “We should talk about, ‘Yes, this is wrong. Why is it wrong?' and discuss alternatives.”

The discussions, he said, may not solve the issues of the Franklin family, but that is not necessarily the point. “They’re useful for the rest of us,” Reece said.

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