UPDATE: CMA apologized and rescinded the guidelines after a number of country artists expressed their opposition.
Yesterday, we received an unusual directive from the CMA Awards: don't ask questions about the Las Vegas shooting, gun rights or politics on the red carpet or media room, or else we may pull your credentials and escort you out.
The ask came in a memo sent by the CMA Awards to media outlets covering the award show from the event. The statement reads as follows:
"In light of recent events, and out of respect for the artists directly or indirectly involved, please refrain from focusing your coverage of the CMA Awards Red Carpet and Backstage Media Center on the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like. It's vital, more so this year than in year's past due to the sensitivities at hand, that the CMA Awards be a celebration of Country Music and the artists that make this genre so great. It's an evening to honor the outstanding achievements in Country Music of the previous year and we want everyone to feel comfortable talking to press about this exciting time. If you are reported as straying from these guidelines, your credential will be reviewed and potentially revoked via security escort."
As you know, 58 people were murdered and more than a hundred were injured during a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas last month. The genre, whether it wants to be or not, is now forever tied to mass shootings and front and center in the gun legislation discussion.
So how will "Country Music's Biggest Night" address the elephant in the room, if at all? Co-host Brad Paisley has said the show will touch on the subject, but the show will focus on unity and celebrating the year's achievements in country music. "We're not going to ignore it, but we're not going to also dwell on that," Paisley said.
Even Paisley thinks the CMA's directive is ridiculous.
I'm sure the CMA will do the right thing and rescind these ridiculous and unfair press guidelines. In 3...2....1.....
— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) November 3, 2017
It's understandable that they don't want media asking these questions, because the pain of what happened in Las Vegas is still very fresh on the hearts and minds of those who will be in attendance. However, there is a line between caring for sensitivities and media censorship, and this leans towards the latter.
That aside, millions of Americans -- many who aren't even country fans -- will be watching the CMA Awards and reading subsequent coverage to see how country music addresses its greatest tragedy, because so far, the industry has been mostly quiet about the whole thing.
That's not a surprise to anybody who follows the format. Country music, more so than any other genre, fosters a culture of silence where controversial social issues and non-conservative topics are kept hush by artists and members of the industry.
We understand that the CMA Awards is basically pure entertainment and escapism for country fans and that most viewers don't want any mention of difficult issues during the show. But there are some things you just can't sweep under the carpet, and this is one of them. We'll be watching to see how the CMA Awards handles this delicate subject next week.
Follow Wide Open Country for live coverage of the CMA Awards when it airs on Nov. 8.