Morgan Wallen is set to return to the 2022 Billboard Music Awards after being banned last year.
MRC and NBC announced on April 29 that Wallen is joining the lineup of performers to take the stage at this year’s award show on May 15.
The division of MRC that produces the award show, MRC Live & Alternative, told Billboard that there were extensive internal conversations behind the decision to welcome the “Whiskey Glasses” singer back to the Billboard Music Awards after a controversial video of Wallen saying the N-word surfaced in February 2021.
“We oppose discrimination, harassment, or racism of any kind,” MRC said in a statement to Billboard. “We believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect. After a thorough review and robust discussions internally and with the artist’s team, in which we found a demonstrated and ongoing commitment to meaningful work and outreach, we extended an invitation to participate in this year’s show.”
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The team behind the decision ultimately decided to bring Wallen, 28, back for the 2022 Billboard Music Awards after acknowledging his consistent work to better his understanding of the issue, according to an internal MRC memo obtained by Billboard. (MRC is a co-parent company of Billboard.)
In addition to performing, Wallen is also nominated for Top Billboard 200 Artist Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist and Top Billboard 200 Album at this year’s award show.
Last year, Dick Clark Productions announced the country singer would not be joining the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, stating in a press release at the time, “As his recent conduct does not align with our core values, we will not be including him on the show in any capacity (performing, presenting, accepting). It is heartening and encouraging to hear that Morgan is taking steps in his anti-racist journey and starting to do some meaningful work.”
The statement added, “We plan to evaluate his progress and will consider his participation in future shows.”
That same year, Wallen received six nominations: Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist, Top Country Album, Top Song Sales Artist and Top Country Song. Despite his absence, he won three awards.
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Wallen was also banned from other award shows at the time, including Academy of Country Music Awards. However, he made his official return to awards season in March 2022 at the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards, where he won Album of the Year for “Dangerous: The Double Album.”
TMZ released the video of Wallen saying the racial slur in February 2021. Later that day, Wallen acknowledged his actions in a statement to E! News that said, “I’m embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”
Wallen opened up about taking steps to understanding the weight of his actions in an interview with Michael Strahan on “Good Morning America” in July. The anchor asked him if he understood the history of the term and if he understood why his actions were upsetting.
“I don’t know how to put myself in their shoes,” the singer responded, “because I’m not, you know, but I do understand, especially when I say that I’m using it playfully or whatever, ignorantly, I understand that that must sound like, ‘He doesn’t understand.'”
Wallen will join Silk Sonic, Burna Boy, Latto, Megan Thee Stallion and more performers at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards on May 15.
(E! News and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)