Garth Brooks took home the award for Entertainer of the Year at the 2019 CMA Awards, winning out over fellow nominees Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton and Eric Church. The win, Brooks' record-breaking 7th Entertainer of the Year honor, has sparked debate among country fans, primarily fans of Underwood and Church, who question whether the trophy should've went to a new name in 2019.
Church himself seemed to wade into the discussion at a concert stop in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night (Nov. 16) during his cover of Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?" In a video from the concert (captured by Taylor Hendrix) Church sings "I know Garth didn't do it this way" before sharing a laugh with his bandmates.
Read More: The 10 Best Eric Church Songs
Whether the reference to Garth was truly meant as a slam on the country superstar or just a lighthearted joke is anyone's guess. But this isn't the first time Church has taken Brooks to task. The "Desperate Man" singer criticized Brooks for lip-syncing "Ask Me How I Know" at the 2017 CMA Awards. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Church said "To me, lip-syncing is and always will be a red line. It's fabricated. I don't want young artists thinking it's OK, because it's not."
In the same Rolling Stone interview, Church said Brooks' decision to lip-sync made his 2017 CMA Entertainer of the Year win even more disappointing.
"So the winner of the biggest category of the night lip-synced in the biggest moment on the show?" Church continued. "F--k that! And I didn't like his excuse at all. I felt like he was speaking for the other nominees. I can speak for myself - I'm not lip-syncing. If I can't sing, I won't sing, or I'll sing badly. But at least you'll get what you get."
During an interview with Broadway's Electric Barnyard on Nash 93.1 in Detroit, Brooks responded to Church's onstage comments. The country legend explained that he understands the passion among Church's fanbase as well as his own.
"If our name hadn't been called then in Knoxville there would've been signs everywhere [saying] 'You're the Entertainer of a Lifetime.' It brings you closer to your team," Brooks said, adding that Church's Entertainer of the Year win will happen one day. "Those guys will keep going and the year that he wins it, it will be the sweetest year for him."
This story originally ran on Nov. 18, 2019.