For the first time, the Country Music Association has banned any Confederate flags and “flag iconography of any type” from its next festival.
After a two-year hiatus owing to the COVID outbreak, the four-day CMA Fest in Nashville, one of the largest of its type in the country, will return June 9-12.
The CMA’s modified policy included banning the Confederate flag to protect supporters’ safety, according to a statement to the Tennessean newspaper.
“We haven’t had a large fan-facing event in nearly three years, so this year’s CMA Fest is a big deal for us.” We’ve always had procedures in place to ensure our fans’ safety and prohibit discrimination, but we believed it was vital to clarify our terminology to make it clear what will and won’t be accepted,” the statement stated.
Although the statement did not go into depth regarding the flag’s safety concerns, battle flags may be frightening and upsetting, as well as a source of dispute and bloodshed.
“Any activity that causes one of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be accepted,” the statement added, adding that “this includes any displays of the Confederate flag.”
The action comes amid growing public outcry over flag displays and Confederate memorials.
The flag has previously been considered a symbol of country music’s Southern roots, with little regard for the Confederacy’s fight to protect slavery. However, as more singers of colour have entered the genre and as artists and industry executives strive for racial equality in country music, the acceptance of racist symbols has shifted.
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Luke Combs, who will perform at the CMA Fest, apologized last year for performing in 2015 in front of Confederate flags and for images that included the flag.
“Those images have no excuse,” Combs stated on National Public Radio. “As a younger guy, I linked the image with a different meaning.” I’m now aware of how distressing that image might be for others.”
“I want folks to feel embraced by country music and our community,” Combs continued. ‘Man, I really want to come in and get a deal and do this thing, but how can I be around with these images being promoted?’ I didn’t realise what those images were expressing to the world and to African American musicians in Nashville at the time. So please accept my apologies.”
Several other festivals and events have long prohibited the use of the flag.
“No one should feel uneasy when attending a NASCAR race.” It all starts with Confederate flags, of course. After NASCAR banned the flags in 2020, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace said National Public Radio, “Get them out of here.”