Jason Isbell Donated $53,000 From Morgan Wallen Song Royalties

On the latest album from embattled country music star Morgan Wallen called Dangerous, he included a cover version of the song “Cover Me Up” originally released by Americana songwriter Jason Isbell on his 2013 album Southeastern. After the controversy involving Morgan Wallen’s use of the N-word on January 31st, 2021, Jason Isbell pledged to donate his songwriter royalties from the song to the NAACP, which along with the entire Dangerous album, was swelling in sales, downloads, and streams due to the controversy.

“So… A portion of this money goes to me, since I wrote ‘Cover Me Up,’” Isbell said on Twitter on February 10th, 2021 as a response to a story on Morgan Wallen’s surging sales. “I’ve decided to donate everything I’ve made so far from this album to the Nashville chapter of the NAACP. Thanks for helping out a good cause, folks.”

Morgan Wallen also made a pledge of his own. In an interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America on July 23rd, Wallen pledged to donate $500,000 to Black charities, which at the time was a rough estimate of the additional money Wallen had made from Dangerous due to the controversy.

Despite Morgan Wallen having donated $400,000 of the pledged $500,000 in the months proceeding his promise, Rolling Stone published a now debunked article claiming Wallen had only fulfilled $165,000 of his original pledge. Both Saving Country Music, and USA Today were able to independently verify that Rolling Stone‘s claims were false, but this didn’t stop numerous other outlets from rebroadcasting the incorrect information. Wallen subsequently donated the final $100,000 of the pledge to The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.

The questions swirling around Morgan Wallen’s pledged donations also had numerous people wondering if Jason Isbell ever fulfilled his pledged donation. After months of attempting to receive a response from the Nashville chapter of the NAACP to independently verify Isbell’s donation, they finally responded to Saving Country Music the first week of February, and confirmed Jason Isbell did indeed fulfill his end of the bargain, and to the tune of roughly $53,000 that was sent to the National NAACP chapter.

“We absolutely appreciate him honoring his word in making that donation,” Sheryl Guinn of the NAACP tells Saving Country Music. “We appreciate those funds because we are definitely able to use that in advocacy against any inequality that we come across. That money will be put to very good use advocating against inequality. So we appreciate him making good on that promise, and trusting us with those funds to make a difference in this world.”

The NAACP was not able to supply a specific time when the donation was made, but said it was, “Quite some time ago.”

Meanwhile, despite both The USA Today and Saving Country Music verifying Morgan Wallen’s donations totaling $500,000, Rolling Stone has now tripled down on trying to call into question the donations under the canard that since the donations were facilitated through Wallen’s Big Loud record label instead of Wallen himself, they supposedly don’t count.

In a new Rolling Stone article published on February 2nd titled “Did Dropping the N-Word Actually Help Morgan Wallen’s Career,” Rolling Stone says, “…the way the money was ultimately donated was convoluted. Big Loud, not Wallen personally, gave $300,000 to BMAC,” while linking to the original Rolling Stone story with the false claims as the source.

Rolling Stone‘s continued insistence to question Morgan Wallen’s donations in no way changes the fact that $500,000 that would have ended up in Morgan Wallen’s bank account ultimately ended up in the hands of Black charities as Morgan Wallen pledged. But it may disincentivize future individuals from making such pledges if the the media—acting in bad faith—continues to misrepresent the nature of those donations, and uses them as an attack vector as opposed to the recompense for wrongdoing, and putting substantive action behind apologies.

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