The Academy of Country Music commented on a controversial 2020 ACM Awards moment. Both Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett tied for the Entertainer of the Year Award, upsetting fans.
This is Rhett’s first time winning the award and Underwood’s third. The moment even surprised Academy CEO Damon Whiteside, who issued a statement to Billboard.
“We were as shocked as Keith Urban when we heard the results of the tie,” Whiteside said. “We have an independent third party accounting firm that tabulates our results based on nearly 5,000 voting members of the Academy. Our awards policy is that in the event of tie both artists receive trophies. While the odds are highly unlikely for a tie, it has happened in the past in other ACM [radio] award categories and with other awards shows.”
A third party calculated the Entertainer of the Year votes.
Accounting firm Deloitte handled the voting for the Academy. The firm has known who the winners were since final voting closed March 11. The Academy postponed the Awards from its original April 5 date due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Whiteside, both Underwood and Rhett received the exact same number of votes. According to Billboard, there’s often a slim margin between winning and losing. A country act lost an award a few years ago by only two votes.
“This certainly was an exciting cap off to an unprecedented year,” Whiteside said. “And we are proud to have created a spectacular, historical show from three iconic Nashville music venues, for the fans.”
Voting occurred in three rounds, according to the 2020 Awards Criteria and Policy packet. All members of the Academy vote in the first round for one artist in each category. The Board reviews the Top 20 submissions to “ensure the submissions meet all eligibility criteria.”
Submissions must also receive a minim of 2% or more of the vote within a respective category. In round two of voting, members may vote for up to two performers in each category. The top five from round two appear on the final ballot. The final ballot has most-highly voted upon singers in each category and members may vote for one winner.
The Academy CEO knew the winner in advance.
For the first time in the awards history, Whiteside also knew the winners in advance. According an ACM representative, the Academy couldn’t allow all nominees to be present due to social distancing guidelines. The Academy called the winners’ managers to “strongly encourage them to have their artists onsite.”
The representative insists the Academy didn’t give away “specific awards win information.”
“We felt it was crucial for fans to see the acceptances live, so for the first time in Academy history, our CEO — and only our CEO, not even Awards staff – was given a list of artists who had wins,” the representative said.