Two months after Morgan Wallen first pledged to donate “around $500,000” (£366,000) to Black-led organisations, the disgraced country star has reportedly only committed a total of $165,000 (£121,000), which was given to a single group.
Wallen sparked controversy back in February after a video of him using a racial slur surfaced. He was subsequently dropped by a number of radio stations, as well as his record label, Big Loud. Despite as much, sales for his recent album ‘Dangerous’ surged, and Wallen maintained the Number One spot on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart for a record-breaking ten weeks.
His return to the spotlight came in May when he performed for the first time since the incriminating video leaked, making an appearance at Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk & Steakhouse bar in his hometown of Nashville. He returned to country radio in June, and the following month, appeared on Good Morning America to discuss his controversy.
During the interview, Wallen committed to making amends, telling host Michael Strahan: “Me and my team noticed that whenever this whole incident happened, that there was a spike in my sales. So we tried to calculate … how much it had spiked from this incident. We got to a number somewhere around $500,000, and we decided to donate that money to some organisations, BMAC [the Black Music Action Coalition] being the first one.”
In a new report by Rolling Stone, it’s alleged that BMAC – “an advocacy organisation formed to address systemic racism within the music business” – is the only organisation Wallen and his team have reached out to, with $165,000 (or roughly a third of his promised amount) given to them.
Rolling Stone said it contacted 56 other state, regional and national Black-led or Black-founded charities in Tennessee, with none of them able to confirm they’d received any donations under Wallen’s name.
According to the publication, the list of organisations it approached was collated from a range of sources, including “Charity Navigator’s directory of Black-founded nonprofits, numerous roundups of Tennessee charities that were prominent in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, and a compendium of Tennessee charities amassed by Give Blck, an organisation that has compiled more than 700 Black-founded nonprofits nationwide”.
Representatives for BMAC issued a statement to Rolling Stone, saying the organisation was “disappointed that [Wallen] has not used his platform to support any anti-racism endeavors”, and called Wallen’s claims that he’d divvy a total of $500,000 between several charities “exceptionally misleading”.
BMAC organisers are reported to have engaged in several meetings with Wallen and his team throughout February and March of this year, during which they “urged [Wallen] to use his platform to do more than just apologise, but to strongly condemn racism and to support anti-racism efforts and initiatives”.
The organisation’s statement to Rolling Stone continued: “We began our interactions with [Wallen] and management being very direct about our feelings on what he had done, and making sure he was crystal clear that the N-word wasn’t some innocuous slang for him to use. Ever. That the word had hatred and violence and blood behind it.
“We also shared with him, through personal stories, how the N-word had impacted Black people. We made clear that if he was open to learning, open to education, open to speaking up, and most importantly, open to helping educate his fans and followers, BMAC would be open to working with him to create awareness campaigns and initiatives around anti-racism. But that he first had to commit to doing the work.”
Rolling Stone also pointed out that although it’s possible Wallen had made further donations anonymously, it isn’t likely, given the singer-songwriter’s history of publicising his charitable efforts. In July, for example, he launched the More Than My Hometown Foundation, with its aim reportedly being to “help children, adolescents, and teenagers find families that can provide warm, loving homes that can rebuild their confidence, self-belief, and to feel forever loved, with a forever family”.
Earlier this month, Wallen performed at a benefit concert, dubbed Morgan Wallen & Friends, to raise funds for those affected by the Humphreys County flood in Tennessee. A press release reported that the effort generated over $725,000 (£530,000).
In a statement provided to Rolling Stone after the initial report was published, Big Loud CEO Seth England claimed that the $500,000 donation came from the label itself, and not Wallen directly.
England said the amount included “$100,000 earmarked and promised for further donations by year end locally”, as well as $100,000 (£73,000) to Rock Against Racism, a nonprofit spearheaded by Slipknot and Megadeth agency 5B Artists + Media.
As for the remaining $300,000 (£220,000), England told Rolling Stone that Big Loud supplied the funds to “BMAC & Other Black Leader’s [sic] organisations of choice” through the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.