Country music star Luke Bryan was called unpatriotic and worse for having the words to the “Star Spangled Banner” written on his hand while singing at the Major League Baseball All-Star game Tuesday night.
The singer says it was exactly that reason, the pressure to be patriotic, that drove him to use his own hand as a national anthem cheat sheet.
“I feel like I can’t go serve my country, I can’t go be a troop and that’s one thing that hurts me about my life is I don’t have time to ever really be a veteran,” Bryan said today on “Good Morning America.” “I kind of feel like that’s the only way I can serve my country is get out and do the anthem.”
The barrage of criticism against the “Tailgates and Tanlines” singer was fast and furious after he was caught on camera glancing down at lyrics written on the palm of his hand in front of thousands of fans inside the stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and millions more watching the game on TV.
The National League beat the American League in a shutout but the singer’s mistake got plenty of attention too.
“Luke Bryan’s version of the national anthem @ the All-Star game last night was an epic fail. He needs to learn respect & remember the lyrics!” one person tweeted.
Besides his declaration of patriotism, Bryan says his decision to write out the words also came down to a more basic fear that can paralyze any performer, stage fright.
“Every artist I’ve talked to in Nashville is like, ‘Oh, the national anthem,’ and you get to where you’re almost scared that you don’t want to do it,” Bryan said. “That stage and being in that moment was certainly one of the biggest moments of my life. I was just really wanting to get it right.”
“What’s funny is when I looked down I didn’t even know what I was looking at,” he said. “I mean I had the notes there but I didn’t see anything and next thing I know I’ve got stealth bombers flying over.”
Nonetheless, unfortunately for Bryan, he’ll join theinfamous roster of celebrity singers – from Roseanne Barr to Steven Tyler to Michael Bolton and more – whose bio will always include the footnote of their National Anthem flub.
“I said an apology and I do mean that,” said Bryan, who issued a series of Tweets in response to the backlash. “If anybody was offended about my way about it I really was sorry about it.”
Bryan also faced criticism for glancing down to check his watch during the performance, which he also apologized for on Twitter.
“I did check my watch because I knew stealth bomber would fly over two minutes in and I knew I started a little late,” he said.
Despite the controversy, Bryan says he still had a good time out at the old ballgame.
“When I settled in it was one of the most enjoyable, entertaining experiences,” he said. “… Just one of the best moments of my life singing.”