NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Grand Ole Opry is under fire for allowing Morgan Wallen to perform over the weekend.
Some Black country music artists associated with the newly formed Black Opry were disappointed that Wallen was welcomed back not even a year after he was recorded yelling a racial slur.
"I think if I were in the crowd, paid for a ticket and he came out I think I probably would've sunk in my seat a little bit," musician Tylar Bryant said.
Bryant is an up-and-coming Black country artist. He would have liked Wallen's return to the historic stage to have looked different. Wallen stepped on stage on Saturday to sing with ERNEST. The two just released a song together.
"Maybe a whole Opry presentation about racism and being inclusive and having him and being a part of that. I think people would stomach that a whole lot better than him just showing up playing a song with his friends," Bryant said.
Months before Wallen's outburst, the Grand Ole Opry tweeted this statement: Racism is real. It is unacceptable. And it has no place at The Grand Ole Opry.
Over the weekend, the founder of the Black Opry sent the following letter to leadership at The Opry requesting an explanation.
Gina and Dan,
Following the meeting I had with Gina where it was expressed that the Opry has interest in pursuing efforts towards creating a safer environment for Black fans and artists and being more inclusive, I am extremely confused by the welcoming of Morgan Wallen to the Opry stage last night. You were very clear about the fact that some people do not deserve a spot on that stage, which lets me know that each guest is intentional and thought through. That being the case, how was this deemed okay?
It felt like a slap in the face to see you all celebrate Charley Pride, only to pull this stunt 24 hours later. You should know that our community is extremely disappointed, though many are not surprised. A stage that was once a dream destination for many Black artists has now cemented itself as one of the many Nashville stages on which we know we are not respected.
Though I can tell you that this sentiment is widely shared throughout our community right now, I want to be clear that I’m speaking only representing myself as the founder of the Black Opry and I do not speak on behalf of any artists that we work with in any capacity.
I know that our conversation involved possible programming opportunities for the Black Opry, at this time I’d like to express that I no longer have any interest in participating with the Opry in any capacity unless there is some clear form of accountability and structural change. I believe that there are spaces that will welcome and respect us more than to use their platform to elevate a man who uses racist language without remorse. Again, I’d like to reiterate that I am speaking solely on behalf of the Black Opry as a brand, not any individual artists.
On June 9 of 2020, “Racism is real. It is unacceptable. It has no place at The Grand Ole Opry” was shared from the Opry’s official Twitter account. This clear and direct statement is completely undermined by your decision to debut Wallen who recently described the rightful criticism of his actions as “noise.”
Though your institution has decided to include only two Black members in it’s almost 100 year history, you should know that there are many of us watching closely and paying attention. I would like an explanation as to why you all felt this was okay, and to know how you all plan to heal the rift you’ve now aggravated between the Opry and the Black fans and artists who previously wished to support and participate.