Grammy award nominee and country music star Luke Combs issued a public apology on Wednesday for his past use of Confederate flag imagery in his performances, saying he has learned how hurtful it can be to others.
In a panel about accountability in country music, Combs addressed a 2015 Ryan Upchurch music video in which Combs appeared with a Confederate flag in the background and with a Confederate flag sticker on his acoustic guitar. Combs told panel moderator and music critic Ann Powers he has grown since the video was made, saying “as I have grown in my time as an artist and as the world has changed drastically in the last five to seven years, I am now aware of how painful that image can be to someone else.”
The country music world has been rocked in recent weeks with accusations of racism as videos of another high profile country star, Morgan Wallen, surfaced last week and revealed Wallen using racial slurs. The fallout has been swift for Wallen. In the days since the video first appeared online, his music has been removed from SiriusXM, CMT, iHeartRadio, Entercom, Cumulus and Pandora. Spotify and Apple Music have moved Wallen’s music from all visible spots on their platforms. Wallen has also had his recording contract indefinitely suspended by his music label, Big Loud, which put out a public statement to that effect on February 3rd.
As for Luke Combs, he told the online panel he hopes other country music personalities are able to use his experience to learn and grow the same way he has, and acknowledged the importance of his high visibility role in that pursuit. He hopes to “use that position for good, and to say that people can change and people do want to change.” Wednesday’s online panel was not the first time Combs has been accused of being racially insensitive. Combs appeared on Saturday Night Live in February of 2020 and fans were split on whether he flashed a hand symbol appropriated by white supremacists during the live taping. Combs also drew some scrutiny in early February this year when he released a surprise single he recorded with Billy Strings titled “The Great Divide,” a track the singer claims is a message for people of different beliefs to come together in unity. Twitter users immediately attacked Combs for releasing the song on the first day of Black History Month, pointing out that his previous use of the Confederate flag and the white power hand gesture do not match with the message of unity in the song.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
PHOTO CREDITS: E! ONLINE