The Grand Ole Opry has come under fire for allowing Morgan Wallen to perform at the historic venue despite the backlash he has faced after using a racial slur last year.
Wallen made a surprise appearance when he joined up-and-coming star Ernest at his Opry debut on Saturday. This is the first time that Wallen has performed at the event since video footage emerged of him yelling a racial slur after a night of drinking.
He was subsequently pulled from radio, disqualified from major award shows, and dropped by his talent agent while also having his contract with his record label suspended. Saturday's performance sparked renewed outrage with many wondering why he was permitted to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.
Among critics was fellow musician Jason Isbell, who took to social media to express his disdain.
"Last night @opry you had a choice — either upset one guy and his 'team,' or break the hearts of a legion of aspiring Black country artists. You chose wrong and I’m real sad for a lot of my friends today. Not surprised though. Just sad," he tweeted Sunday.
"Congratulation on telling everyone racism is still a big part of country music," another Twitter user added over the weekend. "And telling Black country artists they still don't matter."
A third shared a screenshot of a tweet the venue had posted in 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, which read: "Racism is real. It is unacceptable. And it has no place at the Grand Ole Opry."
"This is exactly why actions speak louder than words," the Twitter user wrote above the screenshot.
The Black Opry, a home for Black artists and Black fans of country, blues, folk, and Americana music, meanwhile submitted a letter to the Grand Ole Opry highlighting its concerns. The letter was shared on Twitter.
"I am extremely confused by the welcoming of Morgan Wallen to the Opry stage last night," wrote Black Opry founder Holly G. "You were very clear about the fact that some people do not deserve a spot on that stage, which lets me know that each guest is intentional and thought through. That being the case, how was this deemed okay?"
Holly described the decision as "extremely confusing" and "a slap in the face" to people of color in the scene.
"I would like an explanation as to why you all felt this was okay, and to know how you all plan to heal the rift you’ve now aggravated between the Opry and the Black fans and artists who previously wished to support and participate," she concluded in the letter.
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