Does politics seep into the charity of the country? – Rolling stone

At the end of last month, Luke Bryan surprised fans with a special guest in Jacksonville, Florida on his Raised Up Right Tour. He wasn’t one of Bryan’s country music peers, but a politician with presidential dreams: Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis.

While walking on the scene to pre-recorded music and throwing merchandise into the crowd, DeSantis treated the cameo as a campaign appearance ahead of November halfway. “Hello Jacksonville. Are you excited to be in the Free State of Florida?” He asked. “All Florida voters, if you want to keep the State of Florida free, we need you to vote on the 8th November.” Chants of “United States! UNITED STATES!” broke, then Bryan revealed the reason for DeSantis appearance.

The country star announced he was donating “a large portion of the proceeds” from a November 2 concert in Estero, Florida – a city hard hit in September by Hurricane Ian – to the Florida Disaster Fund. The crowd roared, Bryan gave DeSantis a Florida Gators rival Georgia Bulldogs jersey, and the pair embraced. Two weeks later, DeSantis won a landslide victory for re-election as governor of Florida.

Bryan, meanwhile, had to fend off a wave of criticism for hosting a Republican governor who used immigrants like political stunts and introduced legislation that targets weird youth. In a rare statementthe country singer and american idol the judge addressed the backlash on social media. “I understand Governor DeSantis is a very polarizing figure. But I grew up in a country where if a governor asks you if he can come and raise awareness to help the victims of a natural disaster, you help,” Bryan wrote in part. It “felt right,” he added. “That’s all I say about it.”

Bryan’s defense that DeSantis’ appearance was for a good cause is the latest example of how country music artists can get into politics by invoking charity.

Earlier this year, Maren Morris and Brittany Aldean, wife of country star Jason Aldean, embarked on a online spat on the issue of the health of young transgender people. During several posts, Aldean incorrectly referred to the health care available to transgender adolescents as “genital mutilation” and incorrectly referred to the idea of ​​a transitioning transgender teenager as having parents who “change” the gender of their child. Morris publicly reaffirmed his support for marginalized transgender youth and called Aldean the “Barbie Insurgency”.

The two ended up selling merchandise to raise money for their respective charities. Morris sold a t-shirt inspired by a Tucker Carlson slur (he described her on-air as “crazy” during an interview with Brittany Aldean) and raised more than $150,000 for the program GLAAD’s Transgender Media and a hotline for transgender youth in need. Aldean, meanwhile, marketed and modeled a line of clothing that read “Don’t Tread On Our Children” to raise money for Operation Light Shine, a nonprofit that, according to its website, was created to “Combating the Growing Epidemic of Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking. The Aldeans raised over $100,000 for the organization that fights child trafficking — a subject of discussion among the conservatives and, above all, the extreme right. The 2016 Pizzagate The conspiracy theory was based on the outrageous notion that some Democrats were running a pedophilia ring at a Washington, DC pizzeria. (Aldean once announcement a t-shirt for kids that reads “Hidin’ from Biden”.)

“More and more, [entertainers] have partnered with charities to make them look good, because that’s the neutral way to pass yourself off as a complete human being,” says Mark Harvey, professor and author of Celebrity Influence: Politics, Persuasion, and Issue-Based Advocacy. “But social media and the growing polarization of politics has changed that. While country music can be quite conservative, and I mean conservative in terms of not wanting anyone to speak up, social media and growing politics are pushing in the opposite direction.

Country singers like rich jeans openly named charities while espousing partisan politics. In 2021, Rich make a bet with the Nashville reporter (and rolling stone contributor) Adam Gold: lead singer of “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” bet a $10,000 donation to his charity of choice that Donald Trump would somehow assume the presidency despite having already lost the election to Joe Biden. After inevitably losing, Rich donated the money to Folds of honor, a legitimate and lauded nonprofit that provides scholarships to the families of U.S. military personnel killed or disabled while serving. It was a bad bet for a good cause.

“Artists are increasingly starting to show their colors in terms of red or blue, which at the time was still a really big risk,” says Christopher King, president emeritus of the Tennessee chapter of Folds of Honor. . But King is adamant when he explains that his organization’s work bridges the political divide, both internally and for the people it serves. “The ball don’t really care [about politics]King says. “I think a lot of people would try to politicize [Folds of Honor]. I hope that won’t happen.

According to Lucia Folk, CEO of Change Agent-cy, which helps match artists and businesses with befitting charitable causes, country music has always shared a close relationship with philanthropy and charitable work. She says that is true now more than ever. “The world is pushing for more transparency, and fans expect artists and the brands they interact with to support causes like social justice and environmental sustainability. Use your platform to shine a light on a cause that matters to you. cares about is a great way to use your voice,” Folk says, but adds, “To be a real charity, you shouldn’t be political, you have to be non-partisan.

Both Folk and King push back against the suggestion that Bryan — whose other charitable endeavors include Feeding America, providing scholarships to farming communities and supporting veterans with his E3 Ranch foundation — intended to make a partisan statement by putting DeSantis on stage in Florida. But they agree that DeSantis may have had motives other than promoting the state’s disaster relief fund.

“If it had been a Democratic governor, I don’t think [Bryan] would have had no problem with that,” King said. “Is it opportunistic for a politician to take advantage of it? Maybe.”

“Was the decision to have the governor obviously making headlines for all kinds of ridiculousness the best idea? I don’t know,” Folk said. “I think [Bryan] was trying to do the right thing, and right now doing the right thing is tricky because people are taking advantage of it. He wanted to raise money for the hurricane victims, and unfortunately Ron DeSantis did what he did and took the opportunity.

Whatever the intent, Tony Morrison, GLAAD’s senior director of communications, said the governor’s cameo was a mistake that cannot be explained. “Yuck sorry @lukebryan there’s no ‘but’ in situations like this,” he said. tweeted in response to Bryan’s statement. In an email to rolling stone, Morrison said, “Many fans of the LGBTQ community, especially LGBTQ Floridians like me, were disappointed with the look. Governor DeSantis continues to cause immense harm to LGBTQ youth in Florida and across the country, using his office, influence and power to spread misinformation and harm LGBTQ people.


Whether or not Bryan was aware of the political statement he was making by inviting DeSantis on stage, it’s clear he felt the need to explain his decision to his fans, both those in the country music world and those who watch it on american idol.

“The only reason this is an ongoing story isn’t the fact that DeSantis showed up on stage; It’s the fact that his fans are upset,” Harvey says. “The fact that he had to [release a statement] says something about the inadequacy of it all, and it’s also a reminder that when celebrities take risks for a politician, he’s more likely to hurt the celebrity than the politician.

Toya J. Bell