October 20, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Is country singer Morgan Wallen’s career over? Probably not

Country singer Morgan Wallen, who torpedoed his career last week after a video captured him shouting the N-word in his Nashville driveway, issued a lengthy apology Wednesday night and told loyal fans that “for today, please don’t” defend him.

Even so, the 27-year-old got supportive notes from country musicians, including some of his label mates, and from other famous names outside the industry. Conversation on social media was muted — and notably free of blue-check verified voices — with some people calling him a racist and refusing to accept the apology, while others wondered whether Wallen’s music would return to the radio any time soon.

Then there were the people who were still asking, “What’s a Morgan Wallen?”

“The video you saw was me on Hour 72 of 72 of a bender, and that’s not something I’m proud of either,” the singer explained in his more than five-minute apology, which at times rang true and at others appeared to show a man consulting a written statement. “Obviously the natural thing to do is to apologize further and just continue to apologize, ‘because you got caught.’ And that’s not what I wanted to do.”

The “Whiskey Glasses” superstar noted that he’d let down so many people who meant a lot to him, including his son and his parents, who he said were “the furthest thing … from the person in that video.” He said he’d been invited by several Black organizations to have educational conversations.

“I’ll admit to you, I was pretty nervous to accept those invitations. The very people I hurt, and they had every right to step on my neck while I was down, to not show me any grace, but they did the exact opposite,” Wallen said.

“They offered me grace and they also paired that with an offer to learn and to grow.”

Wallen also urged those who were defending him to stop it, even if just “for today.”

“I was wrong,” he said. “It’s on me to take ownership for this and I fully accept any penalties I’m facing.” Wallen said he’d be going “off the grid” for a while to wrangle his habits and improve his decision-making.

Even with that, the chart-topping singer got support for his apology.

“Love you bro. I’m here for you always. Praying for you,” country singer Jimmie Allen, who is Black, said in comments on Wallen’s Instagram post. “Can’t wait for the world to see your heart. We ALL mess up and we all deserve redemption. The Bible says forgive 70 x 7. Let’s get through this.” Allen had previously tweeted vague but supportive messages that appeared to be directed at the embattled singer.

The blowback came fast for Wallen last week: He was quickly pulled from major radio networks, from streaming services’ playlists and from TV network CMT; disqualified from the CMA Awards; and “suspended” by his record label. Country singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, who penned Wallen’s “Cover Me Up,” tweeted Wednesday that he would be donating royalties earned from Wallen’s latest release, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” to the Nashville branch of the NAACP.

But it hasn’t been all bad. Since the video was posted last week, Wallen’s song sales more than tripled, according to Billboard. On Monday, he surpassed Jason Aldean for the most weeks (four) at No. 1 on the album chart by a core country artist.

Other Wallen supporters commenting on his apology video, included country artists Jon Langston, Nicolle Galyon, Tyler Reeve, Gord Bamford and Scott Stevens, songwriter Ben Burgess, singer Roy “Gramps” Morgan and Big Loud labelmates Chris Lane, Ernest and Sean Stemaly. Meyers Leonard of the Miami Heat chimed in, as did golfers Justin Thomas and Jessica Korda.

Big Loud partner Seth England said, “‘Apologies don’t come with excuses, they come with changed behavior’. … I love ya bro, brick by brick.”

Comic Theo Von, country DJ Dee Jay Silver, CMT host Cody Alan and Lathan Warlick of the Roots also posted supportive notes.

“With you being in that position, it was just open for the world to see a mistake that you’ve made. But how many times have God shown us grace on mistakes that we’ve made OVER and OVER. I’ve learned to have that same grace for others. LOVE YOU FOREVER HOMIE!,” wrote Warlick, who is Black. After emojis of a white fist and a Black fist bumping, he added, “This too shall pass.”

Meanwhile, some of the A-list country artists — including Mickey Guyton and Maren Morris — who initially condemned Wallen’s behavior and country music’s larger problem with racism have not yet weighed in on his apology via their social accounts.

Last week, while Wallen, who’s no stranger to controversy, said he was gathering his thoughts, his sister Ashlyne Wallen went off on so-called cancel culture related to her brother’s racist language.

“Cancel culture is the worst thing that has come out of our digital world,” she wrote Friday on Instagram. “It leaves no room for forgiveness and growth, in turn, leaving no opportunity for individuals who have made mistakes to learn from them. If you make a mistake or do something stupid then apologize, correct your mistake and learn through personal growth.”

Here is Wallen’s apology in full:

Hey, y’all. It’s Morgan. I’m long overdue to make a statement regarding my last incident. I wanted to collect my thoughts, seek some real guidance and come to you with a complete thought before I did.

I was made aware of the video being posted to TMZ with hardly any time to think before it was released to the public. I was asked if I wanted to apologize and of course I did. I wrote many detailed thoughts and only a portion of those got used, which painted me in a even more careless light. I’m here to hopefully show you that that’s not the truth.

The video you saw was me on Hour 72 of 72 of a bender, and that’s not something I’m proud of either. Obviously the natural thing to do is to apologize further and just continue to apologize, “because you got caught.” And that’s not what I wanted to do.

I let so many people down who mean a lot to me and who have given so much to me and it’s just not fair. I let my parents down, and they’re the furthest thing from the people, from the person in that video. I let my son down. And I’m not OK with that.

So this week I’ve been waiting to say anything further until I got a chance to apologize to those closest to me that I knew I personally hurt. I also accepted some invitations from some amazing Black organizations, some executives and leaders, to engage in some very real and honest conversations. I’ll admit to you, I was pretty nervous to accept those invitations. The very people I hurt, and they had every right to step on my neck while I was down, to not show me any grace, but they did the exact opposite. They offered me grace and they also paired that with an offer to learn and to grow.

I’ll be honest, you know, that kindness really inspired me to dig deeper on how to do something about this. And one thing I’ve learned already is, I’m specifically sorry for, is that it matters. My words matter. A word can truly hurt a person, and at my core that’s not what I’m OK with. This week I heard firsthand some personal stories from Black people that honestly shook me. And I know what I’m going through this week doesn’t even compare to some of the trials I heard about from them.

I came away from those discussions with a deep appreciation for them and clearer understanding of the weight of my words. I wish the circumstances were different for me to learn these things, but I’m also glad it started the process for me to do so. I’ve got many more things to learn, but I already know that I don’t want to add to any division. This week was a big lesson that sometimes we can do just that without even knowing it. Our actions matter. Our words matter. And I just want to encourage anyone watching to please learn from my mistake. There’s no reason to downplay what I did. It matters, and please know I’m carefully choosing my next steps in repair.

I want to end this update hopefully on a more positive note. Since that video was taken, I’ve been sober for nine days. It’s not all that long of a time, but it’s enough to know the man in that video is not the man that I’m trying to be. I’ve had this week to think about times when I’m sober, and I’m really proud of who I am and my actions, for the most part, in those moments. When I look on the times that I’m not, it seems to be where the majority of my mistakes are made. So I’ve decided to go off the grid for a little while and get used to making good decisions. I want my team, my family, my friends and even strangers to trust me. Hell, I want to trust me.

Who knows if I’ll be able to live down all the mistakes I’ve made, but I’m certainly going to try. I’m going to spend some time taking back controls of my habit, living healthy and being proud of my actions. And lastly, I have one favor to ask. I appreciate those who still see something in me and have defended me, but for today, please don’t. I was wrong. It’s on me to take ownership for this, and I fully accept any penalties I’m facing.

The time of my return is solely upon me and the work I put in. I still have a lot of really good people in my corner trying to help me and I appreciate them more than you know. I appreciate you more than you know. This entire situation is ugly right now, but I’ll keep searching for ways to become the example instead of being made one.

In closing, I’m not trying to be a holy roller or anything, but this week I remembered a passage from Paul that always stood out to me, and I’m thinking maybe a moment like this is why. In first Corinthians 13:11, it says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” That’s what I’m going to be doing for the next little bit. God bless.