Luke Bryan Defends Decision to Invite 'Polarizing' Gov. DeSantis to Announce Hurricane Relief at Florida Show

Luke Bryan, Ron Desantis
Luke Bryan, Ron Desantis

Ron DeSantis/Twitter Luke Bryan and Ron DeSantis

It wasn't everyone's kind of night.

Country star Luke Bryan issued a statement on Twitter on Sunday after he warmly welcomed controversial Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on stage at a tour stop in Jacksonville on Friday night.

Funds raised by the Raised Up Right Tour shows (including an upcoming gig in Estero, Florida) are going toward those impacted by Hurricane Ian via the Florida Disaster Fund, but some fans of Bryan, 46, were not pleased about the inclusion of the state's governor. Bryan is standing behind his decision.

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"I typically don't respond to stuff when I'm getting run down on a social platform but here's the deal," Bryan wrote. "I understand Governor DeSantis is a very polarizing figure. But I grew up in a country where if a governor asks you if they can come and raise awareness to help victims of a natural disaster you help."

DeSantis, 44, is notably one of the politicians behind Florida's Parental Rights in Education law (otherwise known as the "Don't Say Gay" law), which restricts classrooms from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and allows parents to sue districts they feel aren't following the law. DeSantis, who signed the bill into law back in March, has also been rumored to be considering a 2024 presidential run, which he previously called "nonsense" last year.

Ron DeSantis and Luke Bryan at Bryan's Jacksonville, Florida concert 10/28/22
Ron DeSantis and Luke Bryan at Bryan's Jacksonville, Florida concert 10/28/22

Ethan Helms Ron DeSantis and Luke Bryan

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The "Don't Say Gay" law has prompted several musicians to offer support for the LGBTQ+ community in response, including Camila Cabello who launched the Protect Our Kids Fund, which helps and offers resources to students, teachers and families affected by it.

At the Bryan show, the politician threw merchandise out to the Bryan fans, waved to onlookers, and gave the music star a high five on stage.

"I've generally stayed out of politics throughout my career," Bryan wrote. "I knew people would chatter about this but for me the most important piece was, if I am going to come back there a few weeks after a large portion of people have been affected by a natural disaster in a state where people have been good to me, this felt right. Raise awareness, have a little fun between the GA and FL college fans before the game and do what I do what I love on stage."

Bryan concluded by telling fans that the statement would be "all" he says about his invitation to DeSantis, and encouraged them to donate to disaster relief. His Florida gigs were initially planned for September, but were postponed after Hurricane Ian swept through Florida later in the month.

The Category 4 storm left 114 people dead in the state, according to the New York Times, which marked the deadliest hurricane to hit the state in almost 90 years. DeSantis previously said at a press conference Florida saw a "500-year flooding event" in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

"We've never seen storm surge of this magnitude," DeSantis told reporters last month. "The amount of water that's been rising, and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flooding event."

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As for Bryan's concerts, the upcoming Estero, Florida show on Nov. 2 specifically will see funds raised go to the Florida Disaster Fund, which is the state's official private fund used to assist communities recovering from disaster. Three Florida shows are closing off Bryan's tour, before he hosts the CMA Awards alongside NFL legend Peyton Manning on Nov. 9.

The country star has previously called out fans for fighting at his gigs — specifically two concertgoers who got into a tussle at a show in Youngstown, Ohio this past July. Joking with his crowd, he said that the behavior was better suited for a rock show.

"I mean, why the hell were y'all fighting during 'Buy Dirt'? This isn't Limp Bizkit or nothing. Friggin' Gwar," he said. "I know somebody got the s— knocked out of them, though, I saw it. Chill out. Find a joint or something, smoke a joint. I know y'all got that s—."