A series of digital billboards showing messages of support for country singer Morgan Wallen appeared throughout downtown Nashville this week. In February, Wallen was seen on video using a racial slur, a scandal that elicited a swift rebuke from the country music community.
“His Fan’s Choice: Entertainer of the Year,” read one of the billboards. “Support that boy from East Tennessee.” The words, over a background of buffalo plaid, are complemented by an outline of Wallen’s signature mullet, the hashtag #GAHT (a Wallen ad-lib that has become popular with his fans), and a reference to Mark 11:25, a biblical verse about forgiveness that reads, in part, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
A representative for Wallen declined to comment, but clarified that the singer was not involved in the purchasing of the billboard ad space in any capacity.
According to Lamar, the advertising company that hosts the billboards, a Morgan Wallen fan approached them about the campaign last month. The company confirmed to Rolling Stone that they have not communicated with Morgan Wallen’s team about the billboards.
Although the billboards did not initially reveal who paid for them, they now include a displayed disclosure that they were funded by fans, according to a rep for Lamar. (“Paid for by Darleen Ingram and 824 Loyal Fans,” the billboards read).
The visible show of support for Wallen in Nashville comes during the week leading up to Sunday’s 56th ACM Awards. Earlier this year, the Academy of Country Music announced that they would “halt” Wallen’s “potential involvement and eligibility” for this year’s awards show.
“We allow our billboard network to be used to display commercial and non-commercial messages, and we have an extensive…policy governing what types of content is permissible,” a representative for Lamar tells Rolling Stone. “In the case of the Morgan Wallen billboards, the content met with Lamar’s Copy Acceptance Policy standards. However, the billboards were initially missing the required disclaimer disclosing the advertiser’s identity, which has since been added.”
After footage of Wallen using a racial slur surfaced earlier this year, the singer had his music removed from the major conglomerate radio stations and streaming services. The Sneedville, Tennessee, native issued a series of apologies, most recently in February, when he told fans to stop defending him. “I fully accept any penalties I’m facing,” Wallen said. “The timing of my return is solely upon me and the work I put in.”
Wallen’s latest project, Dangerous: The Double Album, spent 10 weeks at Number One on the Rolling Stone Top 200 Albums charts upon its release.