The Country Music Association and representatives for the CMA’s annual award show came under fire Saturday after country legend Charley Pride died of complications from COVID-19 — just weeks after he received a lifetime achievement award at the in-person CMA Awards in Nashville and performed a number with singer Jimmie Allen.
As outcry grew that the show may have led to Pride’s infection, the association issued a statement distancing itself from his tragic death at age 86.
“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” the group said. “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. 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.”
The statement comes in response to criticism online from those who linked his death to the fact that the event took place indoors at Nashville’s Music City Center. Several acts set to perform at the event were forced to drop out with little notice after testing positive for COVID-19, including members of Lady A, Rascal Flatts and Florida Georgia Line.
Shortly after news of Pride’s death broke, a number of high-profile country singers questioned the awards show and its potential role in Pride’s death.
“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,” wrote singer Marren Morris, who also attended the event and took home the awards for Female Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year. She later added: “F— this f—ing year.”
Country singer Mickey Guyton responded to Morris’ tweet, saying, “Gurl I thought the same damn thing.”