Country star Morgan Wallen has been suspended indefinitely from his label and seen his music pulled by radio stations and streaming services on Wednesday (Feb 3) after video surfaced of him shouting a racial slur.
Big Loud Records said in a statement that Wallen's contract has been suspended indefinitely. Republic Records, which he is co-signed to, said it agreed with Big Loud's decision and said “such behaviour will not be tolerated.”
The video, which was first published by TMZ on Tuesday night, showed Wallen outside a home in Nashville, Tennessee, yelling profanities and a racial slur.
Wallen said in a statement to TMZ that he is embarrassed and sorry.
“I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologise for using the word. I promise to do better,” his statement said.
He’s one of the genre’s biggest young stars. His sophomore album, Dangerous: The Double Album, is spending its third week atop the Billboard 200 chart and it has set several streaming records, even besting the recent release from country star Luke Combs. Wallen is also one of the few country acts to score a Top 10 hit on the pop charts, thanks to the success of 7 Summers and Wasted On You.
But the fall from the top has been swift.
“In light of Morgan Wallen’s recent actions involving the use of a racial slur, we have made the decision to remove his music and content from our stations effective immediately,” according to a statement from iHeartMedia, which has hundreds of radio stations across the country.
The Academy of Country Music, which is currently taking nominations for their annual awards show in April, said in a statement they would “halt” Wallen's eligibility for this year's show and will also be reviewing the awards eligibility and submission process. “The Academy does not condone or support intolerance or behaviour that does not align with our commitment and dedication to diversity and inclusion,” the ACM statement said.
As of Wednesday morning, streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music don't have his songs in their most popular country music playlists, where normally Wallen had multiple songs from his new album.
SiriusXM and Pandora also removed his music from their playlists, according to a spokesman for SiriusXM. The music television channel CMT said it was removing his appearances from all its platforms.
The Tennessee-born singer who has hits with songs like Whiskey Glasses and Up Down featuring Florida Georgia Line, has done a lot of public apologizing lately.
Wallen was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct in May 2020 after getting kicked out of a downtown Nashville bar.
In October, Saturday Night Live dropped him from a scheduled performance on their show after he violated COVID-19 protocols when videos appeared on social media of him partying with fans in Alabama. He was later invited back on the show in December, where he appeared in a skit making fun of himself.
Other country stars criticised his actions publicly.
“It actually IS representative of our town because this isn’t his first ‘scuffle’ and he just demolished a huge streaming record last month regardless,” tweeted country star Maren Morris. “We all know it wasn’t his first time using that word. We keep them rich and protected at all costs with no recourse.”
Other music stars have faced backlash for using racial slurs or derogatory language. Justin Bieber apologised in 2014 for using a racial slur joke in a video from when he was a teenager.
In the past, country radio has sometimes ignored offensive behaviour by male stars, even as female artistes like the Chicks, formerly known as the Dixie Chicks, were removed from radio for criticising the US president. Country star Jason Aldean wore blackface for a Halloween costume in 2015, but never issued an apology, and he remains one of the top selling country artists.
Marcus K Dowling, a music journalist who has written about Wallen, said the country music industry has experienced a reckoning in the last eight months prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement that has had an effect on the industry's reaction to Wallen's words.
“I feel like it set a trip cord that never existed in country music for racial behaviour,” said Dowling. “It was inarguably the black people who work and occupy space in the genre who set that boundary. And any artist, even an artist who has sold well and has over 500 million streams in three weeks, if they cross that line, they were going to be impacted."