The CMA Fest is the latest music festival to ban all imagery related to the Confederate flag. During this year's four-day event in Nashville, the festival lists "Confederate flag imagery of any kind," under the prohibited items and activities list.
The festival, which began in 1972, is back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Usually, 50,000 country music fans attend each year. According to The Country Music Association, the decision to ban Confederate flag imagery was based on protecting the safety of festival-goers and preventing any discrimination.
"This year's CMA Fest is our first major fan-facing event in nearly three years," CMA said in a statement. "We have always had policies in place that protect the safety of our fans and ban discrimination, but we felt it was important to further refine our language to explicitly outline what will and will not be tolerated."
This year, Stagecoach Festival located in Indio, California, also banned any Confederate flag imagery and other "racially disparaging" and "divisive symbol" displays. Urging other country singers to ban the flag at their shows, Maren Morris previously stated, "I see these Confederate flags in the parking lots. I don't want to play those festivals anymore," she noted. "If you were a Black person, would you ever feel like going to a show with those flying in the parking lot? No. I feel like the most powerful thing as artists in our position right now is to make those demands of large organizations, festivals, promoters, whatnot. That's one of the things we can do, is say, 'No, I'm not doing this. Get rid of them.'"
Luke Combs previously apologizes for his use of the Confederate flag, as a picture went viral of him posing with a sticker on his guitar and for an appearance in Ryan Upchurch's video in 2015 that featured the Confederate Flag. At that time, Luke Combs spoke with The Tennessean, stating, "There's no excuse for those images. I'm not trying to say, 'This is why they were there and it's OK that they were there.' It's not OK. As a younger man, that was an image I associated to mean something else."
He continued, "As I've grown in my time as an artist, I am now aware how painful that image can be to someone else. No matter what I thought at the time, I would never want to be associated with something that brings so much hurt to someone else. I apologize for being associated with that. Hate is not part of my core values. It's not something I consider a part of myself at all. I'm just looking to be here and not say 'I'm so sorry, please forgive me.' I'm trying to learn. I'm trying to get better."
This year the CMA fest will feature appearances from Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Kelsea Ballerini, Gabby Barrett, Thomas Rhett, Mickey Guyton, Cole Swindell, Kane Brown, and more. Elle King and Dierks Bentley are set to host the three-hour CMA Fest television special, airing on August 3 at 8 pm ET on ABC.
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