The Grand Ole Opry is under fire after the Nashville institution welcomed Morgan Wallen onstage during a concert on Saturday. The controversial country singer, who was caught on camera using a racial slur in February 2021, joined singer-songwriter ERNEST during the latter’s Opry debut over the weekend.

Wallen surprised audiences when he joined ERNEST on the pair’s new duet, “Flower Shops”. The two have a professional relationship going back to 2021 with Wallen’s “More Than My Hometown”, which ERNEST co-wrote.

In the aftermath of the concert, many musicians in and around the Opry have decried the decision for undermining the supposed inclusivity of the historic Nashville venue. Jason Isbell characterized the decision as a deliberate move to “break the hearts of a legion of aspiring Black country artists.”

On Wallen’s 2021 smash-hit album Dangerous: The Double Album—which moved 3.2 million equivalent units in the aftermath of his public fallout—he covered Isbell’s song, “Cover Me Up”. In response to Wallen’s actions, Isbell decided to donate all his proceeds from the record to the NAACP.

Additionally, the founder of The Black Opry—a platform for Black country musicians and fans—published an open letter to the Grand Ole Opry chastising the decision to allow Wallen on its sacred stage. Holly G, who withheld her last name, highlighted the hypocrisy of the Opry celebrating Charley Pride (one of its two Black members in a 97-year history) just days before welcoming Wallen with open arms.

“You should know that our community is extremely disappointed, though many are not surprised,” Holly wrote. “A stage that was once a dream destination for many Black artists has now cemented itself as one of the many Nashville stages on which we know we are not respected.”

Following his public fallout in 2020, Wallen’s label Big Loud Records “suspended” his contract, though a number of entertainment lawyers told Rolling Stone that term holds no definite legal standard. Wallen still reaped the rewards of his record contract—as did Big Loud—and though he was banned from the Billboard Awards last May, he still took home three top country trophies.

As radio networks pulled his music, Wallen promised to “do better” and take some time away from music for self-improvement. He vowed to meet with Black leaders to discuss the best path forward and publicly pledged $500,000 to Black-led groups while on Good Morning America. Yet, months later when Rolling Stone canvassed dozens of state, regional, and national Black organizations, only the Black Music Action Coalition reported receiving any money and said the $500,000 pledge “seems exceptionally misleading.”

Months went by and Wallen’s album continued to top charts in defiance of the public outcry against the singer. Big Loud Records “reinstated” his contract and major media groups like iHeartRadio began running his songs again. The singer-songwriter is set to go back on tour next month, beginning with shows in Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania before a two-night stand at New York’s Madison Square Garden. To start out 2022, Wallen thanked his fans on Instagram for standing by him through all of the “noise” that has dogged him this past year.

“lots of folks in country music showing their ass today,” Margo Price wrote on Twitter in response to Wallen’s weekend appearance at the Opry. “do not be discouraged. keep pushing forward. change is uncomfortable but growth is inevitable. gatekeepers will die and their institutions will crumble like ancient kingdoms and fall like the Berlin wall [sic].”