An Open Letter to Morgan Wallen
It's been a little over 24 hours since Morgan Wallen's career began to turn into dust after his drunken use of a racial slur in his driveway on Sunday night.
If you ever wanted a real-world example of 'cancel culture,' this would be it...and it would be totally justified. After seeing the now-infamous video of Wallen in his driveway and the swift reaction against him, one can only shake their head and ask one question:
What was he thinking?
Oh, yeah...we know what he was thinking. He wasn't thinking at all. He should know by now that as a celebrity and, arguably, one of the biggest names in country music, that cameras are everywhere and that his level of privacy was zero.
He SHOULD know this. But obviously, that wasn't the case.
It's been a hell of a year for this incredibly gifted, and incredibly stupid, young man. He's had his share of second chances, as evidenced by being canceled and re-booked on Saturday Night Live, which was delayed after he was spotted partying without a mask and not social-distancing.
He was able to recover from the incident and was welcomed back to SNL, poking fun at his hard-partying ways. His star continued to rise after that indiscretion. However, now that star may have plummeted from the sky permanently.
I'm reminded of another infamous fall from grace. In 1987, former Los Angeles Dodgers General manager Al Campanis appeared on Nightline and answered Ted Koppel's question about the lack of black managers or front office personnel by saying that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager." Even though Campanis was one of the most respected and successful men in the game, he was fired less than 48 hours later and never worked in baseball again.
There will be no SNL appearance or acceptable mea culpa after this for Morgan Wallen. He has to take his punishment like a man, although that would require him to act like a man in the first place. He has a lot of growing up to do before his career and reputation have a chance of recovery.
Perhaps that's the operative word: 'recovery.' Yes, Wallen was drunk when he spewed that offensive word, but that's certainly no excuse. As a friend commented yesterday:
What you say out loud when you are drunk, is what you feel silently when you are sober.
Is Wallen a racist? I can't comment to that, but his actions don't look good. With that in mind, here are some thoughts for him to ponder as he heads down this very uncertain road.
Don't get in front of a camera or do an interview yet. You've said enough already. Let the wound try to heal. Go away for a while, and get your head out of your ass.
Get into recovery for alcohol and anger management. Then, on your own, work with the underprivileged and with minority communities to give back without making a big deal about it. This effort needs to be sincere and from your heart, and not because you want your career back.
After a while, when the world is ready for you, you'll need to fall on the sword and slowly make the rounds with news sources. Sit with Oprah, meet with black leaders and listen. Don't defend yourself; what happened was indefensible.
Then, rediscover your gifts for songwriting and music. Use the lessons you've learned to show how much you've changed, but don't expect to be welcomed back, because that may never happen.
You are too talented to not use your gifts for good. As disappointed as we are in you, everyone loves a redemption story.