From the CMA's press guidelines: "In light of recent events, and out of respect for the artists directly or indirectly involved, please refrain from focusing your coverage of the CMA Awards Red Carpet and Backstage Media Center on the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like. It’s vital, more so this year than in year’s [sic] past due to the sensitivities at hand, that the CMA Awards be a celebration of Country Music and the artists that make this genre so great. It’s an evening to honor the outstanding achievements in Country Music of the previous year and we want everyone to feel comfortable talking to press about this exciting time. If you are reported as straying from these guidelines, your credential will be reviewed and potentially revoked via security escort."
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Country music stars have tried to stay politically neutral in recent years. "Industry insiders still cite the Dixie Chicks (who criticized George W. Bush in 2003 and were basically blacklisted from the format) as the reason country artists are fearful of speaking up about divisive subjects, particularly given that much of their fan base leans conservative," Emily Yahr reports for The Washington Post. "The genre also has close ties to the National Rifle Association through its lifestyle brand, NRA Country, which partners with lots of Nashville singers." Could Paisley's insistence on journalistic freedom signal greater willingness among country singers to speak out on politically sensitive topics?