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CMA responds to speculation Charley Pride contracted COVID-19 at last month's awards

The CMA said everyone affiliated with awards had to follow strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions.
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/ Source: TODAY

The Country Music Association is responding to backlash following Charley Pride’s death at age 86 on Saturday due to complications of COVID-19.

The country legend's last performance was at Nov. 11's CMA Awards, where he also received a lifetime achievement honor. Some people, including country singer Maren Morris, have wondered whether the ceremony being indoors may have contributed to Pride's illness.

"Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” a statement from the CMA and Pride's representatives on the CMA website read. “Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times.”

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The statement continued: “All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.”

The CMA did not immediately respond to TODAY's request for additional comment.

Morris, who attended the CMA Awards in person, tweeted about the event and Pride's death on Saturday but has since taken down the post.

"I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged," she wrote. "Rest in power, Charley."

Morris did not immediately respond to TODAY's request for comment.

Fellow musician Brandi Carlile responded to Morris’ tweet: “Honestly you’re right to acknowledge what everyone is wondering & as usual YOU have a lot to lose for asking the question. Thank you for being human Whether that was the place he got it or not- they endangered him & it easily could have been. It’s quietly bothered me for weeks."

Country singer Mickey Guyton also replied to Morris on Twitter: "Gurl I thought the same damn thing."

When the 54th Annual CMA Awards, hosted by Reba McEntire, was airing, many Twitter users commented on the lack of masks and social distancing. According to a CMA statement from ahead of the event and obtained by TODAY on Sunday, everyone in attendance was required to wear a mask any time they left their assigned seat, staff had to wear personal protective equipment and practice social distancing at all times, and tables were spaced 8 feet apart with no more than four people per table.

Pride died Saturday after being hospitalized in late November with "COVID-19 type symptoms," according to a statement on Pride's Facebook page. Considered country music's first Black superstar, Pride is the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Dolly Parton shared her thoughts about the loss in a series of tweets, writing, “I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you.”

“Rest In Peace. My love and thoughts go out to his family and all of his fans,” she added.