Confederate footage banned at CMA festival

If you want to promote the tandem advertising of racism and hate speech, you have to do it somewhere else than at the CMA Festival. The annual meeting has declared that images of the Confederate flag will be banned at the world’s largest country music festival, which will be held June 9-14 in Nashville.

The CMA Festival is the second major country music festival to implement such a ban, following the April 29-May 1 Stagecoach Festival, which also made headlines for putting the flag and associated racially charged imagery on the Nixed list sat.

As in this earlier case, the organizers of the CMA festival made no announcement about the ban, rather it was published by journalists searching the fine print of a list of prohibited items on the festival website, where “images of the Confederate flag of all kinds” is listed alphabetically just under “Cameras with a detachable lens longer than 6”.

In a statement to the Tennessean (which called the move “an under-the-radar decision”), the Country Music Association confirmed the new policy, noting that it had been on the site since this page’s publication in April.

“This year’s CMA Fest is our first major fan event in nearly three years,” the CMA statement said. “We’ve always had policies protecting the safety of our fans and prohibiting discrimination, but we felt it was important to further refine our language to explicitly state what is and isn’t tolerated. … Consistent with our initial CMA Fest lineup announcement in early April, our event policy has been posted on our website stating that any behavior which causes any of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be tolerated and that closes each a display of the Confederate flag.”

The move comes at a time when the CMA and other country music organizations are trying to call attention to the growing racial diversity in the genre. Headlining the main stage at NIssan Stadium at this year’s CMA Festival are two black artists, Darius Rucker and Kane Brown. Many artists of color are among the hundreds participating on other stages including Mickey Guyton, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, Reyna Roberts, Breland, Miko Marks, Blanco Brown, Brei Carter, Madeline Edwards, Willie Jones, ONE the Duo, Rodell Duff, RVSHVD, Shy Carter, and Tiera Kennedy. The Black Opry, an organization dedicated to nurturing emerging black artists, will also be hosting a showcase.

At Stagecoach in California, the ban appeared to be largely being complied with five weeks ago. A scan of the campgrounds by a reporter revealed no sightings of Confederate flags, where at least a few were once expected. (That didn’t mean there was a lack of other divisive slogans or symbols, though, as “Let’s Go Brandon” flags flew atop the campers.) Confederate images were said to have been quietly banned from Stagecoach’s marketplace years ago, where such items were easy to sell in the 2000s.

The ban could be harder to enforce across the CMA festival than it was at Stagecoach, not only because Confederate imagery remains far more popular in the South, but also because festival-goers are spread throughout the downtown area throughout the day and at events a- and go out that include several free stages. However, the policy should be easily enforceable at events involving tickets or a festival pass, including the nightly all-star shows at Nissan Stadium.

Confederate imagery has been a staple of many country and Southern rock shows for years — both on stage and in the audience — and artists have claimed they’re a symbol of “rebel pride,” not racism. The issue came to the fore as bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd debated publicly, and at times awkwardly, whether they should continue to wave the flag. The need to purge it of country music, at least from an artistic/industrial perspective, has been heightened as proponents of the genre have debated its history of marginalization in recent years.

Maren Morris and Luke Combs both spoke on the subject in a 2021 virtual talk on race issues that was part of the Country Radio Seminar conference. “At these country music festivals, I see Confederate flags in the parking lots,” Morris said. “I don’t want to play these festivals anymore. If you were a black person, would you ever feel safe going to a show when they were flying in the parking lot? … I feel that as artists in our positions, it is most powerful to make these demands of large organizations, festivals and promoters. That’s one of the things we can do is say, ‘No, I’m not doing this. Get rid of them.'”

Combs, who has been arguably the country’s biggest star for the past five years, appeared in a video with flag images earlier in his career before the major label but later apologized. “There’s no excuse for these images,” Combs said in the Country Radio seminar discussion. “As I’ve grown in my time as an artist and the world has changed drastically in the last five to seven years, I now realize how painful this image can be. … I would never want to be associated with anything that causes so much harm to someone else.”

In 2015, after the killing of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church by a white man who had previously brandished Confederate pictures, many major retailers that had allowed Confederate-style items took a step to pull back their sales or prohibited, including Amazon , Wal-Mart, Sears/Kmart, eBay, Etsy and Google Shopping.

In 2020, NASCAR announced that fans would be prohibited from showing Confederate images at all events and venues. A poll at the time found that NASCAR fans 45 and older were strongly opposed to the ban, 50% to 23%, while racing fans under 44 were statistically undecided on the issue. Confederate footage banned at CMA festival

Charles Jones

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