Luke Combs apologized for his past use of the Confederate flag and Confederate flag imagery in a past video and 2015 photos, saying "there's no excuse for those images."
Combs' statement was part of a conversation between Combs, Maren Morris and moderator Ann Powers (an NPR music critic) during a panel on "accountability and the future of country music" during the annual Country Radio Seminar.
"There's no excuse for those images," Combs said (quote via The Tennessean). "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. 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."
In 2015, two years before the release of his debut album, This One's For You, Combs appeared in the music video for Ryan Upchurch's "Can I Get a Outlaw," which featured numerous Confederate flags. Photos of Combs posing with a Confederate flag sticker on his guitar have also circulated on social media recently.
Combs added that there were many alternatives to showcase Southern pride.
"You can go plant a vegetable garden in your yard of heirloom plants that your family used to grow 200 years ago," the country star said. "That's something that you can do to be proud of your Southern heritage. You can cook a meal that your grandparents made. Those are the things that I try to do now to say 'Hey, I am proud of being from North Carolina. I am proud to be a rural guy.' ...You don't need the flag to be proud to be from the south. It doesn't have to be a part of that. And I think that that's something that, unfortunately, we're still figuring out."
During the conversation, Maren Morris said country artists should demand that venues remove Confederate flags from country music festivals.
"Can we just agree at these country music festivals, I see the Confederate flags in the parking lots. I don't want to play those festivals anymore," Morris said. "If you were a Black person would you ever feel safe going to a show with those flying in the parking lot? No! I feel like the most powerful thing as artists in our positions is to make those demands of large organizations, festivals, promoters, that's one of the things we can do is say, 'No, I'm not doing this. Get rid of them.'"
The conversation comes just days after Morgan Wallen was caught on camera using a racial slur. Wallen was indefinitely suspended from his record label and his music has been pulled from iHeartRadio and Cumulus radio stations.
During a recent segement on CBS This Morning, Vince Gill, Maren Morris, Ryan Hurd and Rissi Palmer discussed the state of country music today and country music's history with racism. Gill shared new song "March On, March On," which supports the fight for equality.