The Country Music Association is speaking out after they received backlash over Charley Pride's death. The legendary country singer died on Saturday of complications from COVID-19. He was 86.
Pride attended the 2020 CMA Awards, which were held indoors at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, on Nov. 11. At the awards show, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award and sang “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” with Jimmy Allen. During the telecast, many viewers expressed social distancing concerns when people in attendance weren't wearing masks.
In a statement on Pride's Facebook, it was revealed that "he was admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus."
After news of Pride's death broke, people on social media began speculating that he might have contracted the coronavirus at the awards show. Following the backlash, the CMAs and Pride's reps released a statement denying he got COVID-19 at the awards ceremony.
"Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative," the statement posted on the CMA's website reads. "After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further."
Maren Morris had also tweeted, "I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley."
Mickey Guyton, who also attended the show show, replied to Morris’ tweet, writing, “Gurl I thought the same damn thing."
Brandi Carlile also tweeted Morris, adding, "Honestly you’re right to acknowledge what everyone is wondering & as usual YOU have a lot to lose for asking the question. Thank you for being human. Whether that was the place he got it or not- they endangered him & it easily could have been. It’s quietly bothered me for weeks."
Just hours before the CMA Awards last month, a handful of artists were forced to drop out after they tested positive for COVID-19. Among the singers who contracted the disease were Rascal Flatts' fiddler Jenee Fleenor, Lee Brice, and one of Lady A's family member.
During the show, host Reba McEntire joked about coronavirus as she coughed while presenting The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Excuse me. Not a good time to do that, is it? Sorry," she said after coughing.
The CMA Awards addressed the concern over COVID protocols in a statement to ET ahead of the show.
"We are following all protocols that have been put in place by the CDC as well as the creative unions to ensure we provide the safest environment possible," the statement read. "Prior to even stepping onto our footprint at MCC, every single person (including artists and their reps) was required to be tested, with many testing repeatedly throughout the week as an extra measure of precaution. Just as with COVID regulations at restaurants, all in attendance are required to wear a mask any time they leave their assigned seat. Staff and crew are also required to wear PPE at all times and, of course, practice social and physical distancing. Tables are spaced eight feet apart with no more than four people seated per table."
However, during the telecast, viewers couldn't help but tweet their concerns.
Maybe it’s because I live in a state where COVID is worse than NYC in the spring but the CMA’s looks like a super spreader event. Not a mask in sight. 🤦♀️
Okay just remembered CMA is on tonight and the first thing I think is ..Why the hell is no one wearing a mask?!? And the 2nd was GOD I hope we don’t lose any country singer to COVID b/c they just didn’t want to wear a mask that match their dresses/suit. #CMAawards
From the #CMA: They're following CDC protocols. Every person (including artists and their reps) entering the venue was required to be tested. And they are required to wear a mask any time they *leave* their assigned seat. Staff and crew are also required to wear PPE at all times.