Carrie Underwood became the first woman to win the ACM Awards' biggest category 3 times, but fans are angry she was forced to share the honor with a man

cahlgrim@businessinsider.com (Callie Ahlgrim)
·4 mins read
carrie underwood acm awards 2020
Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett pose with their 2020 Entertainer of the Year awards.
  • Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett both won entertainer of the year at the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards.

  • Underwood became the first woman to receive the prestigious honor three different times, breaking her tie with Taylor Swift.

  • Many male artists, however, have won the award three times or more. 

  • Fans are furious that Underwood was forced to share her record-breaking win with a man.

  • Since the category was introduced in 1970, the award has been given to a woman or all-female band only 11 times (eight different artists).

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett both won entertainer of the year at the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards on Wednesday.

It was the first time in history that two artists tied for the show's most prestigious award — and even Rhett seemed bewildered as he began his acceptance speech, "What is happening right now?"

The moment also marked a major milestone for Underwood, who made history as the first woman to receive the honor three different times, breaking her tie with Taylor Swift.

But while many country fans celebrated this milestone, many others were vexed that Underwood was forced to share her record-breaking win with a man.

Since entertainer of the year was introduced as a category in 1970, the award has been given to women only 11 times.

Because Underwood and Swift have both won multiple times, this means just eight different female artists have won: Loretta Lynn (1975), Dolly Parton (1977), Barbara Mandrell (1980), Reba McEntire (1994), Shania Twain (1999), the Chicks (2000), Underwood (2009, 2010, and 2020) and Swift (2011 and 2012). 

Many male artists, however, have won the award three times or more.

Most recently, Jason Aldean won three times in a row in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Kenny Chesney won five times in a row from 2004 to 2008, and the all-male band Alabama won five times in a row from 1981 to 1985. Garth Brooks has won entertainer of the year six times.

Many fans are fed up with the perceived bias against women in country music, which seems to be reflected in this ACM Awards pattern.

Radio DJ Jeff St. Pierre even speculated the tie was orchestrated as "a way of trying to avoid online backlash from Carrie Underwood fans."

"I don't believe for a second there was a tie," he wrote on Twitter. "The voting body likely chose Thomas and the awards created a tie to avoid controversy like the CMA's saw last year."

St. Pierre is referring to Underwood's loss to Garth Brooks for entertainer of the year at the 2019 Country Music Association Awards — which stung even more after the ceremony was billed as a "Celebration of the legendary women in country music."

"Today in Nashville" host Kelly Sutton said the ACM Awards should consider implementing two entertainer of the year categories, one for women and one for men.

"No," replied Jasmine Rochelle, who runs a blog about country music.

"Women routinely outperform men in our industry. Having gendered categories is redundant and insulting. It's about time the ACM's just get over their bias."

For her part, Underwood said she's "more than happy to share this with Thomas Rhett and just to have my name mentioned with his."

"Thank you to the ACM not just for this, but for putting me in such incredible company," she said during her acceptance speech.

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