As Billboard reported, the decision was made by MRC (formerly Media Rights Capital), one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates which, in addition to producing music award shows, films (Knives Out, Baby Driver), and television series (Ozark, The Great), also owns Billboard as well as The Hollywood Reporter.
MRC said it made the decision to invite Wallen after an “extensive internal discussions by a dedicated group of diverse staffers.” In a statement to Billboard, the company wrote, “We oppose discrimination, harassment, or racism of any kind. We believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect. After a thorough review and robust discussions internally and with the artist’s team, in which we found a demonstrated and ongoing commitment to meaningful work and outreach, we extended an invitation to participate in this year’s show.”
That “commitment to meaningful work and outreach,” includes Wallen’s $500,000 donation to Black-led organizations. As of September, Wallen had only given a fraction of his pledge, but Billboard now reports that he’s made good on his word.
This will be Wallen’s first appearance at a major awards show since footage showed him using the N-word and other expletives in a video posted in February of 2021. He was barred from the 2021 BBMAs, though he took home three awards based on chart data, and he was also prevented from attending the 2021 Country Music Awards, where he was nominated for Album of the Year.
Wallen initially apologized by saying he used the racial slur while “on hour 72” of a bender, and he pledged to spend the rest of the year staying out of the spotlight and working on himself. But the incident caused a massive surge in his album sales, and in November he announced a huge arena tour that sold out 49 performances in just two weeks. A “Let’s Go Brandon” chant broke out on opening night, but Wallen hasn’t wholly embraced his place as a conservative hero, and recently told fans that he hoped to collaborate with perennial Fox News villain Kendrick Lamar.
The 2022 Billboard Music Awards will take place May 15th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Other performers include Burna Boy, Latto, Megan Thee Stallion, Rauw Alejandro, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Silk Sonic, and Florence + The Machine.