The CMA Music Festival, a four-day event considered to be one of the largest country music gatherings in the world, is now joining a growing list of major country music events to ban attendees from displaying Confederate imagery.
Hosted each June by the Country Music Association (CMA) in Nashville, Tennessee, the event is billed as “the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience and attracts tens of thousands of fans from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and 37 international countries. In 2019, CMA Fest featured more than 300 performances on 11 official stages.
After a two-year hiatus for COVID-19, CMA Fest returns June 9-12 to downtown Nashville and when musicians take the stage this year “Confederate flag imagery of any kind” will be listed under prohibited items.
“We have always had policies in place that protect the safety of our fans and ban discrimination, but we felt it was important to further refine our language to explicitly outline what will and will not be tolerated,” the Country Music Association said Wednesday in a statement.
Once used as a common symbol by “outlaw country” singers like David Allan Coe, Alabama, and Hank Williams Jr., the decision from CMA Fest comes as many artists and industry leaders work to expand the genre’s appeal to a younger, more diverse demographic.
For the last several years, some country artists have push for a reckoning with the racist imagery often present in country music. In 2015, Nashville based Will Hoge released a single titled “Still a Southern Man” where he comes to terms with the rebel flag in his own personal history.
Watch Still a Southern Man by Will Hoge:
Last year, the California-based Stagecoach Festival implemented similar measures and country singer Luke Combs apologized for his past use of the Confederate flag during a discussion at Nashville’s annual Country Radio Seminar.
Since 2006, a portion of proceeds from CMA Fest has been given to music education initiatives supporting students K-12 across the U.S. through the CMA Foundation.
Half of the proceeds from the festival each year (estimated at US$ 200,000 in 2001) are donated to charity, while the other half is earmarked by the CMA for “the advancement of country music”.