CMA Fest Bans Confederate Flags, Other Offensive Imagery

by Clayton Edwards

After a nearly three-year hiatus due to COVID, CMA Fest is finally almost here. The festivities kick off next Thursday, June 9th, in Downtown Nashville.  The festival will showcase a stacked lineup of some of the biggest names in country music alongside some must-see up-and-comers. The festival organizers hope to draw country fans from all walks of life to the four-day event. As a result, they’ve decided to ban Confederate flag imagery “of any kind” at this year’s event.

The Confederate flag has been a prevalent image in country music for decades. Artists like Hank Williams Jr., Alabama, and even Luke Combs have used it in their merch, press photos, stage décor, and album covers in the past. Many claim that the flag is a symbol of their Southern heritage and nothing more. However, others see the flag as a symbol of hate. That’s what CMA Fest organizers, as well as some artists on the bill, are trying to get away from.

CMA Fest Organizers Explain Confederate Flag Ban

In a statement provided to Tennessean, the Country Music Association explained why they aren’t allowing Confederate flags at the festival. “This year’s CMA Fest is our first major fan-facing event in nearly three years. 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 statement read.

The statement went on to say, “In line with our first CMA Fest lineup announcement in early April, our event policy was published on our website, which states any behavior that causes one of our attendees to fear for their personal safety will not be tolerated, and that is inclusive of any displays of the Confederate flag.”

CMA Fest Bans Other Offensive Imagery

The festival’s ban on Confederate imagery is new. However, the CMA Fest has always tried to limit imagery and language that could be offensive to some attendees. In the FAQ section of the festival’s website, you’ll find a long list of banned items and activities. Among those is “Any item that depicts language or imagery that violates the Code of Conduct.”

The Country Music Association’s Code of Conduct explains further. “CMA is committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive culture where all people have access to experience Country Music. Therefore, inappropriate behavior such as discrimination, harassment, any form of abuse and/or targeted comments which may cause any person to fear for their safety at the Event will not be tolerated.”

Luke Combs Apologizes for Using Confederate Imagery

Last February, Luke Combs addressed his past use of the Confederate flag in his press photos and on his guitar during a discussion with Maren Morris at Country Radio Seminar. Combs said that he had no excuse for using the flags. “I’m not going to say ‘This is why they were there and it’s okay that they’re there,’ because it’s not okay. I think, as a younger man, that was an image that I associated to mean something else.” He went on to say that he learned how hurtful the imagery could be to others and apologized for using it. He then said, “Hate is not a part of my core values.”

Luke Combs will play the Nissan Stadium Stage at this year’s CMA Fest.