CMAs Issue Statement After Concerns Over the Death of Charley Pride

Country legend Charlie Pride passed away on Saturday, December 12th due to complications from COVID-19, his family and representative have confirmed. Amid his death, much speculation arose of where Charley Pride may have contracted the virus, and if it was at the 2020 CMA Awards on November 11th, where a tribute to Charley Pride was the centerpiece of the presentation, including a performance by Jimmie Allen, the presenting of Pride with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by a performance by Charley Pride himself, and an extended interval for Pride to make a speech.

Despite the CMA Awards putting in place multiple COVID-19 protocols, including limiting capacity inside the awards, and testing all participants—which included the removal of multiple performers from the awards for either testing positive or for potential exposure, including Lady A, fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, and Florida Georgia Line member Tyler Hubbard—many were still concerned about the lack of social distancing and mask wearing that was part of the event. Many specifically showed concern for Charley Pride, who was 86-years-old, and has suffered numerous health issues in recent years.

In the aftermath of Pride’s death, numerous blue-chekmarked journalists and performers took to Twitter to openly speculate that Charley Pride had contracted COVID-19 at the CMA Awards, including Maren Morris, who attended the CMAs herself. Saving Country Music reached out to both the CMAs, and representatives for the team and estate for Charley Pride for clarification on a timeline of when Pride tested positive, and if they knew where he had contracted the disease. Charley Pride’s publicist, Jeremy Westby, responded early Saturday evening (12-12) with a statement from the CMA that has been approved by Charley Pride’s representatives. The statement has subsequently been released to the public.

“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” the CMA statement reads. “Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.”

The family has also issued a statement beyond the press release disseminated earlier on Saturday announcing Pride’s death. “He was admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus. Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously.”

Born in Sledge, Mississippi as the forth child of 11 children to a sharecropper, Charley Pride challenged the notion that country music was a white man’s genre. Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, and had 29 #1’s. He won the CMA’s coveted Entertainer of the Year in 1971, along with Male Vocalist of the Year in 1971 and 1972. Along with Grammy Awards and other accolades, Charley Pride was one of the most successful, accomplished, and influential country artists of all time, joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1993, and being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

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