Country star Morgan Wallen's sister is speaking out in his defense after he was condemned online and dropped by his record label and other major organizations over a video showing him using a racial slur, for which he apologized.
In a statement posted on Instagram on Friday, Feb. 5, Ashlyne Wallen, 26, also slammed the general concept of "cancel culture" and called for people to forgive her brother. Morgan, 27, has not commented on her remarks.
"Someone who is truly sorry should be forgiven—not continuously bashed," his sister wrote. "Your past mistakes do not define you; it is how you choose to move forward that does."
She continued, "I know my brother. He is my best friend, and although what he said was completely unacceptable, I know in my heart that it did not come from a place of hate or malicious intent. Should he have said it? No. But should he be given the opportunity to correct his mistake and learn from it? Yes."
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, TMZ posted a video that showed Morgan saying the N-word and other expletives as he returned from a night out with friends in Nashville. The footage, reportedly filmed by a neighbor, sparked an online backlash, which included criticism from fellow country stars Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini.
Morgan later said in a statement to E! News, "I'm embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better."
Despite his apology, his record label Big Loud suspended him and his booking agent WME dropped him. In addition, Spotify, Apple and major radio companies removed Morgan from their playlists, CMT removed his appearances from its platforms and the Academy of Country Music deemed him ineligible for its annual ACM Awards.
"Cancel culture is the worst thing that has come out of our digital world," the star's sister wrote on Instagram. "It leaves no room for forgiveness and growth, in turn, leaving no opportunity for individuals who have made mistakes to learn from them. If you make a mistake or do something stupid then apologize, correct your mistake, and learn through personal growth."
She added, "Morgan has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met. It doesn't matter who you are or where you are from, he will welcome you with open arms and show you kindness. He is not the kind of person who would ever want to hurt anyone, but contrary to popular belief, he's also human. And sometimes, humans make mistakes."
Morgan's sister said the comments made about him by the media and on social media are "getting out of control." She added, "Please remember that he is a human being capable of doing good and bad, just like everyone else on this Earth. Believe me, he is well aware of his wrongdoing and will be making changes in his life to rectify his actions in any way that he he can. But the way he is being portrayed at the moment is simply not who he is as a human being. I can say this as someone who knows him better than anyone."
Amid the controversy, others have also voiced support for Morgan, including Rakiyah Marshall, the founder and CEO of publishing and artist development company Back Blocks Music. She posted a photo of herself with the singer on Instagram on Friday. Country star Miranda Lambert liked her post and Morgan's sister shared the pic on her Instagram Story on Saturday, Feb. 6.
"This guy has a heart," Rakiyah wrote in her post. "Maybe a little ignorant, for sure makes a lot of mistakes, may need a little extra love & care, has lost his fight with alcohol, but by no means is a racist. Has a lot to learn about his missteps and it's going to take a while. He is not perfect nor does he get a pass for his reckless behavior. But he does not deserve this and I'll stand by that. I'm not giving up on him. Hope the world gets to see the person I know in that picture."
This is not the first controversy Morgan has faced and apologized for over the past year. In October, a scheduled performance on NBC's Saturday Night Live was canceled after TikTok videos showed him partying without wearing a mask and kissing women at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The footage went viral and angered social media users, who called out Morgan for not social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I was getting ready for SNL this Saturday and I got a call from the show letting me know that I would no longer be able to play. And that's because of COVID protocols, which I understand," he said in an Instagram video. "I'm not positive for COVID. But my actions this past weekend were pretty short sighted, and they've obviously affected my long term goals and my dreams. I respect the show's decision, because I know that I put them in jeopardy."
He added, "I'd like to apologize to SNL, to my fans, to my team, for bringing me these opportunities. I let them down. I wish I could've made country music and my fans proud but I respect the decision once again."
Morgan would go on to make his SNL debut after all last December, during which he appeared in a sketch and poked fun at the controversy.
Months earlier, in May, the singer was arrested and charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct after an incident at Kid Rock's Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N' Roll Steakhouse in Nashville. He tweeted, "I went out downtown last night with a few old friends. After a couple bar stops, we were horse-playing with each other. We didn't mean any harm, and we want to say sorry to any bar staff or anyone that was affected." Two months later, a court ruled he would not face prosecution.