Morgan Wallen has won three Billboard Music Awards ahead of the 2021 show despite being banned from appearing on it since he drew controversy earlier this year over a video that showed him using a racial slur, for which he apologized.
On the morning of Sunday, May 23, most of the winners of the 2021 Billboard Music Awards were announced several hours before the ceremony, which airs in the evening on NBC. Morgan won Top Country Artist, Top Country Male Artist and Top Country Album for Dangerous: The Double Album. Morgan was nominated for six awards.
These marked the first awards the Tennessee native, who recently turned 28, has won since a TMZ posted in February a leaked video showing him 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.
"I'm embarrassed and sorry," Morgan said in a statement to E! News at the time. "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."
Following the controversy, Morgan was banned from appearing at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards. He was, however, not barred from being nominated, as the finalists of the award show are chosen based on their performance on Billboard charts, as well as music sales, streaming platform statistics, radio airplay and social engagement. Many of Morgan's fans have continued to support him despite the backlash and his music has continued to rank high on country music charts.
"Morgan Wallen is a finalist this year based on charting," dick clark productions and studio MRC said in a statement in late April. "As his recent conduct does not align with our core values, we will not be including him on the show in any capacity (performing, presenting, accepting). It is heartening and encouraging to hear that Morgan is taking steps in his anti-racist journey and starting to do some meaningful work. We plan to evaluate his progress and will consider his participation in future shows."
Also after the controversy, the Academy of Country Music deemed Morgan ineligible to be nominated for honors or to appear at the 56th annual ACM Awards, which took place in April. In addition, CMT and iHeartMedia removed his appearances from their platforms, Spotify and Apple Music dropped his songs from their curated playlists, booking agency WME removed the "Me on Whiskey" singer from their roster and label Big Loud Records suspended his recording contract indefinitely.
Morgan has not commented on his Billboard Music Award wins. On Saturday, May 22, a day before the ceremony, he posted an Instagram video showing him performing on an acoustic guitar a new song, "Thought You Should Know," that he said he wrote for his mother a "while ago." He said it "seemed like an appropriate time to share it."
The lyrics include, "Been chasing songs and women / Making some bad decisions / God knows I'm drinking too much."
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)