Why Garth Brooks Is Removing Himself From Contention for CMA Awards Entertainer of the Year

Garth Brooks
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Garth Brooks performs onstage at the 51st annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 8, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn.

The superstar has won a record seven times.

After winning the CMA Awards entertainer of the year a record seven times, Garth Brooks is taking himself out of consideration for the category.

In a Zoom press conference with roughly 70 reporters early on Wednesday (July 29), Brooks said that “it’s time for somebody else to hold the award and know what entertainer of the year feels like.” He is removing himself for this year and for all future years.

He also admitted that his decision was in part based on the backlash after his win last year. The November CMA Awards celebrated the year of the woman with hosts Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire and an opening medley featuring a cavalcade of top female artists through the decades setting the tone for the show.

Given the emphasis, there was an expectation that Underwood -- the first woman nominated in the category in three years -- would take home entertainer of the year. When she didn’t, the backlash on social media was swift.

“It made winning entertainer of the year not as fun,” Brooks said. But one tweet out of the thousands stuck with him. “It said, 'Why doesn’t he step down and have entertainer of the year be for the next generation.' I 100 percent agreed. So with all the love in the world and all the gratefulness because the last thing I want to do is seem ungrateful to the CMAs and everyone who’s voted for us, we’re officially pulling ourselves out of entertainer of the year."

Shortly after the awards, with the tweet on his mind, he met with Country Music Association executives to ask if they would consider a CMA entertainer of the year emeritus award. The executives came back and said they could not determine which artist was up for an award, so Brooks made the decision to extricate himself.

Brooks' announcement comes after first-round voting for this year’s November awards show -- exact date still to be announced -- has already closed. Should he make the cut to go into the second round of voting, which begins Friday (July 31), he has asked the CMA to remove him and move the next person up on the list. If they won’t, he hopes by getting the word out via the press conference, voters will not vote for him.

In response, the CMA said it is not their position to pull any nominee. "The nominees and winners of the CMA Awards are selected by the vote of eligible members of the Country Music Association and not by CMA. The long-standing CMA Awards rules do not allow individuals to remove themselves from the balloting process at any point," reads the statement. "The 2020 CMA Awards second ballot will be emailed to eligible voting members this Friday, July 31. If voters have nominated Garth Brooks in the first round, his name will appear on the second ballot. It will then be up to voters in this second round to select their top finalists. The final 2020 CMA Awards nominees, which will consist of five nominees in each category, will be announced in the coming weeks, with a final round of voting taking place in October. We look forward to seeing who our members vote for when The 54th Annual CMA Awards air on ABC in November.

Given that touring has come to a complete halt since March due to the global pandemic, Brooks questioned what the criteria will even be for this year’s contenders. The eligibility period is July 1-June 30. “Good luck on whoever they pick this year," he said. "It’s going to be a tough one, and whoever gets it will be well deserving.”

Brooks has had a remarkable run, first winning entertainer of the year in 1991, then 1992, 1997, 1998 and after a decade-long hiatus, coming back to win in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Brooks is not withdrawing from consideration from any other CMA categories and admitted he would love to be win for best video for “Dive Bar," his collaboration with  Blake Shelton. “I’m extremely competitive. This one tweet, I just looked at it and said, ‘You know what, you’re right,'" he said. "So when you do that, what do you do. You can’t sleep at night if you don’t make it right in your own head.”

He was asked, but didn’t answer, if he was also removing his name for consideration for the same category for the Academy of Country Music Awards. He has taken home entertainer of the year six times from that organization and it not nominated for this year's Sept. 16 awards.

Brooks started a three-year stadium tour last year that goes until 2022. Three dates have already been postponed due to COVID-19. But given that he is one of the few country artists selling out stadiums, he speculated that had he not pulled his name, he could be in consideration for the next three years: “If we were to win those, I don’t think it would be good for the CMAs. I don’t think it would be good for us as an artist. I think people would resent it. So, it’s like you know what, we’ve got our run, we’ve got it set up, we’re all going to the summer of ’22 no matter what happens. For the entertainer of the year, I’m going to enjoy it probably more this year than I ever had because someone’s going to get that feeling and I know the feeling is so righteous.”

The singer also revealed that one of his daughters, he didn’t specify which one, tested positive for COVID-19, but only had a mild case and no one in the family got sick.