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Morgan Wallen Doesn’t Address N-Word Video Controversy in Billboard Music Awards Return

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During Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, Morgan Wallen had his first major awards show performance since he was caught on camera using a racial slur.

Wallen’s performance at the 2022 show follows his previous ban from the ceremony amid backlash to a February 2021 video in which he could be heard yelling the N-word and other expletives.

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The country singer, who went into the night up for four awards this year, took the stage to perform “Don’t Think Jesus” before transitioning into a performance of “Wasted on You.” He did not address his past controversy.

Later on in the night, Wallen won for top country male artist. “I got the best damn fans. Thank you to my momma for being my date tonight. I wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you to the Billboards for inviting me here,” he said. He also thanked his family, friends and son for “inspiring” him.

BBMA producer MRC Live & Alternative said that the decision to book Wallen to perform came after extensive internal discussions. “We oppose discrimination, harassment, or racism of any kind,” MRC said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

The Billboard Music Awards ceremony is produced by MRC Live & Alternative, a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.

Ahead of the show, Sean “Diddy” Combs, who is hosting and executive producing the Billboard Music Awards, addressed having Wallen and Travis Scott join the performers lineup — at Scott’s Astroworld Fest in Houston last November, 10 people died and hundreds were injured.

“People make mistakes. Now we’re moving on with love and respect for everybody that was hurt or affected. It’s time to forgive. To have Morgan and Travis be able to come back and touch the stage again with the mindset of getting a second chance at life. Everybody in the room is getting a second chance at life, you know, because we’re back inside with no masks on. We need love and I’m excited about celebrating that,” Combs said in an interview with Billboard.

During an appearance on Good Morning America last July, in his first TV interview about the released footage, Wallen revealed that he checked himself into a rehab facility after the incident. The singer also shared that the footage was taken while he was on “hour 72 of a 72-hour bender.”

Wallen also said that he didn’t frequently use the slur, only around a “certain group of friends” who “say dumb stuff together.” “It was — in our minds, it’s playful,” Wallen said. “That sounds ignorant, but it — that’s really where it came from.”

Following the release of the N-word footage, the singer’s recording contract with Big Loud Records was suspended indefinitely and CMT announced that it was removing the singer’s appearances from its platforms. iHeart Media also pulled Wallen’s music and content from its stations, while SiriusXM and Pandora removed the singer’s music from its playlists, according to a spokesman for SiriusXM. Wallen was also recently dropped by WME.

Last year, Wallen took home the Billboard Music Awards for top country artist, country male artist and top country album. In March, Wallen won album of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards for Dangerous: The Double Album, a year after he was removed from the ACMs ballot.

This year he is a finalist in four categories, including Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist and Top Billboard 200 Album. Wallen’s album Dangerous: The Double Album, has led the top country albums chart for a record-breaking 55 weeks.

The 2022 Billboard Music Awards, hosted by Combs, aired live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on NBC and Peacock.

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