Mayor de Blasio got himself into a real Space Jam on Sunday when he was caught on video flapping his arms to a version of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” while visiting a church in South Carolina.
An 18-second video shows de Blasio standing on the left side of the chapel as a female choir member belts out the refrain of the late 1990s mega-hit by the since-disgraced R&B superstar, who is facing sexual abuse charges tied to four underage victims.
The mayor moves his arms from front to back, then holds them out by his side and waves them up and down before clasping his hands.
“I wonder if the @NYCMayor realizes who sings this song,” tweeted NY1 reporter Courtney Gross, who captured the video.
The clip shows a sizeable number of women churchgoers remaining seated, despite the encouragement of their pastor, whose gestures appear to urge the congregation to stand up and join in.
Kelly was indicted last month in Chicago on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse against four underage victims between 1998 and 2010.
In an email, de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips insisted: “The Mayor wasn’t the church’s DJ and he certainly can’t be expected to recognize every R. Kelly track.”
“I Believe I Can Fly” was featured in the 1996 move “Space Jam,” which starred Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny in a combined live action/animated comic adventure at the peak of the legendary Chicago Bull’s playing career.
The movie grossed more than $250 million in global ticket sales, and “I Believe I Can Fly” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s “Hot R&B/Hip-Hop” chart and No. 2 on the “Hot 100.”
Aside from the linkage of the once revered song to the Kelly sex scandal de Blasio’s arm flapping also evoked imagery from critics who’ve likened the 6-foot-5 pol to various avian characters.
During the mayor’s 2017 re-election campaign, challenger Bo Dietl repeatedly derided him as “Big Bird,” while a 2015 profile in The Atlantic magazine said his “hooded eyes and dour countenance” was reminiscent of “Sam the Eagle, the Muppets’ harrumphing, censorious patriot.”