Florida Georgia Line recently announced plans to host the inaugural FGL Fest this September in Indianapolis, coinciding with NASCAR’s event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, The Brickyard 400. For the last few years, Florida Georgia Line’s record label Big Machine has partnered with the event in some capacity, including naming the entire race after Brantley Gilbert in 2017.
FGL Fest includes much of what you would expect from a one-day mainstream country festival, with Cole Swindell, Raelynn, Jillian Jacqueline, Stephanie Quayle, and wunderkind Mason Ramsey also scheduled to perform. What’s alarming is that along with Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell, the other headliner for the event will be hip-hop artist Nelly.
Florida Georgia Line has collaborated with Nelly multiple times in the past, and the duo has also toured with Nelly recently. The worry over blurring genre lines by having FGL and Nelly share a stage has come and gone. The problem with the booking is that the last time Nelly was on tour with Florida Georgia Line, a woman accused him of rape in a matter that is still unresolved. Subsequently, two more women have come forward claiming sexual assault against the rapper, including a claim that happened after the first high profile incident on the Florida Georgia Line tour late last year.
Nelly was originally arrested October 7th, 2017 in Auburn, Washington after he was accused of sexual assault by a local woman. Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., was arrested on his tour bus in a Wal-Mart parking lot where the alleged rape occurred. Auburn is a suburb of Seattle where the rapper performed at the White River Amphitheatre with Florida Georgia Line as part of their 2017 “Smooth Tour.”
According to Steve Stocker of the Auburn police, the woman called 911 and reported the rape at 3:48 a.m. early Saturday. After an investigation, police decided to charge Nelly on 2nd degree rape charges. Later those charges were dropped by local authorities after the alleged victim—22-year-old Monique Green—said she was being harassed and smeared in the media after leaks from the local police department ended up on TMZ. She said she couldn’t trust the local police to fairly prosecute her case. Multiple stories involving Nelly’s attorney Scott Rosenblum also appeared on TMZ accusing Monique Green of being a gold digger and a liar.
Despite dropping the criminal case, a civil case ensued against Nelly that is still ongoing. Since then two more accusations have emerged. One is from a woman who says that Nelly assaulted her at an afterparty following a concert at Koko, which is a club in London. The victim alleges Nelly groped her, despite repeatedly staving off his unwelcomed advances in June of 2016.
The other new complaint has resulted in another sexual assault investigation against Nelly by police in Essex, England. A woman claims that after a show at Cliffs Pavilion in Essex on December 5th, 2017, she approached Nelly to take a picture with him. Nelly allegedly grabbed the woman by the arm and took her to his dressing room where he began to masturbate in front of her and tried take her top off and force her to perform oral sex on him. As she ran away, the accuser claims Nelly yelled at her and called her a “cunt.”
As individuals across the entertainment and professional world have been fired, demoted, publicly shamed, ridiculed, and many have seen their entire careers destroyed due to sexual misconduct allegations nowhere near the severity of those against Nelly, the rapper continues to be welcomed at mainstream country music functions unabated. He was able to finish his stint on Florida Georgia Line’s “Smooth Tour” in late 2017, even while the rape allegations were legally pending. Now even more accusations have surfaced, yet Florida Georgia Line and Live Nation have no problem booking Nelly to perform at FGL Fest, even though he’s been accused of three separate sexual assaults directly tied to live performances, including two in the last nine months.
Everyone has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. But as the accusations of sexual assault against Nelly continue to mount—including after the first very public accusation had been made—it seems very prudent that Nelly not be invited to play on country music festivals and tours promoted by big music companies and underwritten by corporate sponsors, at least until the accusations and criminal investigations are resolved.