Thomas Rhett poses in the press room with his CMA trophy at the 50th CMA Awards in Nashville. Jason Davis/FilmMagic
When the Country Music Association stages its 51st CMA Awards on November 8th in Nashville, they’ll do so with a strict edict to members of the press: don’t pose questions about the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest festival shooting or gun issues to country artists in attendance. Should a journalist fail to adhere to the rules, the association says, they could have their credentials revoked "via security escort."
In a set of media guidelines disseminated Thursday morning, the Country Music Association singled out the "Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like" as verboten, both on the CMA Awards red carpet and in the backstage pressroom.
"It’s vital, more so this year than in year’s [sic] past due to the sensitivities at hand, that the CMA Awards be a celebration of Country Music and the artists that make this genre so great. It’s an evening to honor the outstanding achievements in Country Music of the previous year and we want everyone to feel comfortable talking to press about this exciting time," the guidelines read. "If you are reported as straying from these guidelines, your credential will be reviewed and potentially revoked via security escort."
The Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on October 1st rocked the country music community, thrusting the genre and its artists into the hard news cycle as issues about gun control were raised in light of the tragedy. Nashville artists’ relationships with the NRA Country organization were questioned and ties to the group showed early signs of fraying, with acts like Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett, former NRA Country spotlight artists, confirming they had no ongoing partnership with the organization. Some stars were more outspoken: Jason Isbell tweeted, "What a truly awful thing. It simply shouldn’t be that easy to hurt that many people," while Maren Morris channeled her frustration into the new song "Dear Hate."
Florida Georgia Line, Rhett, Isbell and Morris are all nominees at Wednesday’s CMA Awards.