The founder of Black country artist collective says it’s ‘a slap in the face’ that Morgan Wallen was allowed to perform at the Grand Ole Opry

Morgan Wallen performs onstage at the Ryman Auditorium on January 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Morgan Wallen drew widespread backlash after being videoed using a racial slur last year, but still enjoyed commercial success afterward. John Shearer/Getty Images
  • Historic country music venue Grand Ole Opry is being criticized for allowing Morgan Wallen onstage.
  • Wallen drew backlash last year for using a racial slur, but has since enjoyed commercial success.
  • The founder of a platform for Black country musicians called Wallen’s attendance “a slap in the face.”

Country venue and event organizer Grand Ole Opry has come under fire after Morgan Wallen, a singer caught on tape last year using a racial slur, was allowed to perform on the historic program in Nashville on Sunday night.

Wallen’s appearance has sparked criticism on social media, including from singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, directed toward the Grand Ole Opry, which describes itself as the “The Show That Made Country Music Famous.”

The founder of the Black Opry, a platform for Black country musicians and artists, penned a letter to talent organizers at show in response to Wallen’s attendance, calling it “extremely confusing” and “a slap in the face” to people of color in the scene.

“You should know that our community is extremely disappointed, though many are not surprised,” wrote Black Opry founder Holly G. “A stage that was once a dream destination for many Black artists has now cemented itself as one of the many Nashville stages on which we know we are not respected.”

She mentioned a tweet by the Grand Ole Opry from last June that said: “Racism is real. It is unacceptable. And it has no place at The Grand Ole Opry.”

“This clear and direct statement is completely undermined by your decision to debut Wallen who recently described the rightful criticism of his actions as ‘noise,'” wrote Holly, though Wallen actually debuted at the venue in 2017.

His performance on Sunday night was for the Grand Ole Opry debut of another country music artist, ERNEST.

Wallen, who was videoed using the N-word while on a night out last February, won three top country music awards at the Billboard Awards last year despite being banned from the show for the controversial clip.

While his recording agency, Big Loud Records, initially suspended his contract and several radio stations took his songs off their playlists, Wallen’s album, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” was a top seller last year with 3.2 million units sold, according to a report by music data firm MRC Data.

His contract and radio spots were also reinstated several months after their bans.

Wallen apologized for using the racial slur, though he drew some criticism last week after seeming to call the backlash against him “noise” in an Instagram post, which Holly pointed out in her letter.

A post shared by Morgan Wallen (@morganwallen)

Holly, who asked that her last name not be used, told Insider that she was previously “fixated” with one day booking Black country artists at the Grand Ole Opry through her platform. 

But with the Nashville concert’s latest decision to host Wallen, Holly no longer has any interest in taking her brand there. Through Black Opry, she’s worked with around 200 musicians and artists for shows in more than 15 cities. Holly launched the platform last April, she said, because she felt that Black fans and artists weren’t accepted in the country music scene.

“It feels like we don’t matter, which is not a new feeling concerning country music, but it doesn’t stop the sting every time something else proves it,” she said.

Holly said she met with talent coordinators for the Grand Ole Opry and was told that the program is deliberately selective with who it allows on-stage. “It’s a very careful choice. It’s not like it’s a karaoke bar and anybody drops in,” she said.

“They knew there were all these Black artists who wanted a space there and had a lot of respect for their institution,” she added. “They’ve basically chosen the direction that they wanna grow in.”

The Grand Ole Opry did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.