Morgan Wallen remains a Country Jam headliner, despite racial controversy

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Country music singer Morgan Wallen is still scheduled to headline Country Jam USA’s 2021 festival in Eau Claire, despite the surfacing of a highly controversial video.

On February 2, TMZ released a video that had been recorded by Wallen’s neighbors back in January. The video showed Wallen shouting racial slurs and other profanities while walking back into his home after a night out.

Following the video’s release to the public, the music industry began to cut ties with the “Chasin’ You” singer. Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora removed Wallen’s music from their playlists, SiriusXM and iHeartRadio no longer play his music on their stations, and CMT removed all of Wallen’s performances from their platforms. Additionally, Wallen was dropped by his booking agent and saw the contract with his label, Big Loud, be suspended indefinitely.

While the distance between Wallen and the music industry has grown, Eau Claire’s own Country Jam USA has decided to keep Wallen as a headliner for the festival in July.

“It’s like a spit in the face,” said Taj Jackson, president of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Black Male Empowerment organization, “It’s pretty disrespectful to minorities. Especially African Americans in Eau Claire.”

Country Jam General Manager Kathy Wright said she had no comment on the situation.

“The GM probably doesn’t want to lose money,” Jackson said, “If he is still headlining, I will not be attending Country Jam again.”

Sam Glaser, a UWEC alumnus and fan of Morgan Wallen, has been to Country Jam five times and says this does not affect his own attendance, but he believes keeping Wallen in the lineup will influence others to not go.

“If Jam wants to have him as an artist, that’s on them,” Glaser said, “And for the people attending, you decide if you want to see him or not.”

UWEC sociology major Meila Keeney has been to Country Jam twice before and has already made the decision that Glaser suggested.

“I do not wish to show participation for any organization that does not recognize the importance of this issue,” Keeney said. “If they still have him as a headliner, it will display that the event makes exceptions to racial slurs and racism itself. We cannot ignore this.”

Another consequence Morgan Wallen faces for this incident, and a possible consequence for Country Jam if the schedule does not change, is  “cancel culture,” a form of group shaming whose end goal is to remove someone from the public eye.

“Cancel culture is crazy,” Glaser says, “With that being said, if you’re a superstar in whatever aspect, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard than the rest of the population. If someone else had done this at their job, they could potentially lose their job.”

With the consequences Morgan Wallen has endured already, many are wondering if more consequences are warranted or if there is a point where enough has been done.

“I think there is a line,” Glaser stated, “but I’m unsure where it is or where it would be on this subject.”

“He could donate to some minority businesses,” Jackson suggested, “to give back and really show that he’s sorry for what he did.”

Jason Isbell, the original singer of “Cover Me Up” that Wallen covers on his latest project “Dangerous: The Double Album,” is donating his share of the album’s sales to the NAACP’s Nashville chapter.

“I would say that he has not faced enough consequences,” Keeney said, “Racism has no excuses. He is an example for his followers and everyone who is using this type of language will be labeled forever for using those terms.”

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