The Country Music Association for the first time banned all Confederate flags and Confederate “flag images of any kind” at its upcoming festival.
The four-day CMA Fest in Nashville, one of the largest of its kind in the country, will be held June 9-12 after a two-year suspension due to the COVID pandemic
The Confederate flag ban was part of the CMA’s updated policy to protect fan safety, the organization said in a statement to the Tennessean newspaper.
“This year’s CMA Fest is our first major fan event in nearly three years. We have always had policies in place that protect the safety of our fans and prohibit discrimination, but we felt it was important to further refine our language to explicitly define what will and will not be tolerated,” the statement said. communicated.
The statement does not go into detail about security issues regarding the flag, but battle flags can be intimidating and infuriating, and a flashpoint for conflict and violence.
“Our event policy … states that any behavior that causes any of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be tolerated, and that includes any display of the Confederate flag,” the statement read.
The move comes amid growing criticism of displays of the Confederate flag and monuments.
The flag has in the past been viewed as a symbol of country music’s Southern roots with little sensitivity to the Confederacy’s struggle to preserve slavery. But this acceptance of racist emblems has changed as more artists of color have become involved in the genre and as artists and industry leaders push for racial equality in country music.
Luke Combs, who will perform at CMA Fest, apologized last year for performing in front of Confederate flags in 2015 and with photos showing the flag.
“There is no excuse for these images,” Combs said on National Public Radio. “As a younger man, it was an image I associated with meaning something else. I now know how painful that image can be to someone else.
Combs added, “I want people to feel welcomed by country music and by our community. Back when these images existed, I didn’t know what it meant to the world and to African American artists in Nashville who were like, “Man, I really want to come in and make a deal and do this thing, but how can I be there with the promotion of these images?” And so I apologize for that.
The flag has long been banned from several other festivals and events.
“Nobody should feel uncomfortable when it comes to a NASCAR race. So it starts with the Confederate flags. Get them out of here,” NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace told National Public Radio. after the association banned the flags in 2020.