CMA Awards: Garth Brooks withdraws from entertainer of the year race

Brooks has won the CMA Awards' biggest honor seven times.

The country superstar made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday, revealing he'd been in discussions with the Country Music Association about perhaps assuming the status of "entertainer of the year emeritus" at this year's CMA Fest.

Of course, the annual gathering wasn't possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now that CMA Awards voting has begun, the Country Music Hall of Famer wants to make it clear he's grateful for his entertainer wins, but wants to make way for other contenders.

Brooks reiterated he's happy to be included in all the other categories, and has no intentions of retiring or slowing down.

Brooks' entertainer of the year win at the 2019 awards show came as a curve ball for many viewers, who were hoping that Carrie Underwood would win the title at the close of a show that was centered on spotlighting female artists.

Brooks, 50, used his acceptance speech to draw attention to rising artists, both male and female. He highlighted co-host Reba McEntire's showmanship, applauded Kelsea Ballerini's vulnerable performance of her single "Homecoming Queen?", predicted an entertainer of the year trophy in Luke Combs' near future and credited his wife, fellow country star Trisha Yearwood.

But some viewers critiqued Brooks' win as both a legacy problem and a symbol of the obstacles female artists face in the industry. No woman has won the entertainer of the year trophy since 2011, when Taylor Swift took home the honor.

Brooks first won the award in 1991.