The musician, who has said that promoters and venues requiring covid safety measures were “discriminating” against concertgoers, told Billboard this week that he was pulling out of shows in Muncie, Ind.; Philadelphia, Miss.; Peoria, Ill.; and Louisville, becoming the latest performer to speak out against vaccination or masking rules. Tritt, 58, who said he still plans to perform at venues without guidelines, noted that the decision was made after some fans reached out to him when they were turned away from buildings because they were not vaccinated or did not have a negative test.
“This is trying to divide people,” he told Carlson. “This is trying to shame people. This is trying to basically discriminate against people they don’t feel are clean enough to be a part of enjoying a concert like that.”
Since the Monday announcement, Tritt has been praised on social media by conservatives who’ve opposed safety mandates implemented by businesses and lawmakers to help curb the spread of the virus. Carlson was among the supporters Tuesday night commending Tritt for being “willing to lose money” based on his stance.
“You are a credit to country music,” Carlson told Tritt, who appeared above a chyron reading, “Top Country Star Tackles Evil Coronavirus Mandates.”
It is unclear how many tickets were sold for the four shows before they were canceled. Representatives with Tritt did not immediately return a request for comment on ticket sales Wednesday. Officials with the four venues did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tritt’s dismissal of safety measures at venues comes as live music has returned to venues worldwide, with many buildings requiring vaccination, masking or other protocols to keep the industry from shutting down again. In the United States, artists such as the Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen have put on concerts and Broadway shows, respectively, in which audience members were required to show proof of vaccination. In the D.C. area, nearly every major concert venue is requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results, including outdoor ones.
While many performers have abided by the venues’ protocols, some have vowed not to play at places with mandates.
Eric Clapton was one of the first major artists to rebuke a safety precaution being used for the return of live music when he announced over the summer that he would not perform at venues that require proof of coronavirus vaccination for people to attend. Clapton went back on that promise last month when he played a show at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Following the city’s mandate, all staff and attendees older than 12 were required to show proof that they were at least partially vaccinated or had a negative coronavirus test taken in the past 72 hours. A review of the concert in the Times-Picayune noted how “the test result loophole apparently allowed Clapton to, in good conscience, perform at the Smoothie King Center.”
Since then, comedian Jim Breuer, known best for his time on “Saturday Night Live,” also said he was canceling shows requiring a proof of vaccination. In the National Basketball Association, Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving remains unvaccinated and will miss games and practices until he fulfills New York City’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.
Pushback against coronavirus measures has been prevalent in the country music community over the past year — and has left some fans feeling stung. Jason Aldean has spoken out against vaccination and mask mandates, and he ripped California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for requiring schoolchildren to be immunized against the virus. Carrie Underwood faced backlash when she liked a video on Twitter of a conservative commentator comparing mask mandates for kids in schools to child abuse.
It is not the first time Tritt has attracted controversy. A two-time Grammy Award winner in the ’90s, Tritt has made it a habit of blocking many on Twitter who support the Black Lives Matter movement and oppose former president Donald Trump, in an effort, he said, to slow down anti-conservative sentiment on the platform.
On Monday, Tritt doubled down on his previous comments regarding mandates and said in a statement posted to his website that “pushing Covid testing protocols on my fans will not be tolerated.” The artist told Billboard that he is “not against the vaccine” but is “against forcing people to take medicine that they may not need and may not want.”
“Any show I have booked that discriminates against concertgoers by requiring proof of vaccination, a Covid test, or a mask is being canceled immediately,” he said.
The average number of daily coronavirus cases in those four states where the concerts were canceled — Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Kentucky — have all seen their rates of infection drop compared with the previous seven days, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
As his name has trended on Twitter for days, Tritt told Carlson that the move to play in venues without mandates was for the fans who “have been shut out from getting a chance to go see a concert for over a year.”
“They are being turned away for some unexplained reason,” Tritt said Tuesday night, “so this is not about following the science or trying to look out for the safety of the people there.”
He found support among fans who believed Tritt was “standing against those who want to take away our freedom,” but some supporters and critics alike thought he had gone too far. A headline in Rolling Stone reads, “Thanks, Travis Tritt, for Accidentally Saving Lives With Your Dumb Covid Policy.” Some fans indicated they would never attend one of his shows, while others expressed their disappointment in Tritt.
“Love ya Travis, but am sad you refuse to be part of the solution to end this plague,” one fan tweeted. “I grew up in a household with parents and grandparents who were asked to do a lot more than this for the sake of their neighbors and the United States.”