The Country Music Association on Thursday issued guidelines for media outlets covering the 51st Annual CMA Awards ceremony on Wednesday, and included in them was a demand that that reporters not focus their “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” — under threat of credentials potentially being “revoked via security escort.” The order was first reported by Nashville Scene.
Late Friday morning, Brad Paisley, who has hosted the show with Carrie Underwood for nine years, slammed the ban, tweeting “I’m sure the CMA will do the right thing and rescind these ridiculous and unfair press guidelines. In 3…2….1…..”
At press time, the replies to Paisley’s tweet were decidedly mixed, but positive reactions outnumbered the negative and “just play music”-type responses.
While the Nashville music community generally shies away from politics and protest, the Las Vegas shooting, in which 58 people were killed and more than 500 wounded during the Route 91 Harvest music festival while Jason Aldean performed, has hit it hard; six days after the tragedy, Aldean himself led off “Saturday Night Live” with a performance dedicated to the victims.
While it’s likely that the CMAs will have a tribute in the works, the organizers’ attempt to control — if not censor — coverage of their event seems heavy-handed at best. Presumably performers and presenters — who include Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Brothers Osborne, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Little Big Town, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Chris Stapleton and hosts Paisley and Underwood — have gotten a similar warning. Variety’s request for further comment from the CMAs was not immediately answered.
While many country artists, including Aldean, have spoken about the tragedy and some have said that gun-control laws in the country need to be changed, the reaction to the ban from artists and the Nashville music community — which is reeling from a battery of sexual-harassment accusations directed at veteran country publicist Kirt Webster — has been relatively muted. One exception is outspoken alt-country singer Margo Price, who posted on Twitter shortly after news of the media ban broke, “And people wonder why I’m not invited …”
Nashville Scene spoke with Paisley about how the awards would handle the tragedy last week, who replied “We’re not going to ignore it, but we’re not going to also dwell on that. We have to make sure we honor those we’ve lost, but we also [have to] celebrate this music, which lives on, and do a good job having the heart we need to have on that night.”
The site then added its own well-spoken two cents on the matter: “Needless to say, ‘the Las Vegas tragedy,’ ‘gun rights’ and ‘political affiliations’ are very much a part of the conversation when it comes to country music these days. What’s more, it’s something that country performers themselves haven’t shied away from talking about. As for those who would threaten the press with revocation of credentials simply for doing their jobs and acknowledging that conversation, well, let’s just say this: Country music is a part of the national conversation on politics and gun violence whether you like it or not. Trying to force the media not to talk about it won’t make it go away.”
The relevant portion of the media guidelines 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. We appreciate your cooperation in advance. If you have any concerns on your coverage plans, please reach out to the CMA Communications team in advance so we can be a great partner as we celebrate “The 51st Annual CMA Awards.”