Does the Morgan Wallen scandal signal a broader reckoning in country music?

The 27-year-old apologized after a widely shared video showed him using a racial slur. In an industry not known for change, music stars like Dolly Parton are speaking up about racial inequality.
8:43 | 02/05/21

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Transcript for Does the Morgan Wallen scandal signal a broader reckoning in country music?
south Reporter: Morgan Wallen embodied country music. His songs like "Seven Summers" a celebration of small-town living, good friends, and good times. The Tennessee native rose to the top of the charts in 2018 with hits like "Whiskey glasses." And never left. At 27 years old, Wallen is one of the biggest stars in all of music. Now a racial slur has stopped his meteoric rise in its tracks. A video obtained by TMZ shows Wallen and a group of friends coming home early Sunday morning after a night out on the town in Nashville. A neighbor was recording when Wallen said this. Hey, take care of this . Hey, take care of this . Reporter: His use of that racial epithet led to swift fallout. His two record labels announcing, in the wake of recent events, big loud records has made the decision to suspend Morgan wall.'srecording contract indefinitely. Republic records, the second label, fully supports big loud's decision and agrees such behavior will not be tolerated. Talk radio chains have stopped playing his music, including cumulus media, I heart radio, Sirius XM, and others. Tonight, "Variety" reporting his agent dropping him. The academy of country music announcing he is no longer eligible for any awards at their annual ceremony in April. It's the only time I can think of in any genre where somebody just went from being the biggest star to having zero air play, almost, in the course of one day. Reporter: Now the country music industry finally forced to confront the issue of racism head on. What type of message is the industry sending by taking these The message that is being sent right now is that the "N" word is a no-go. I think that has been made clear. Can we get to the point now where we are also uncovering or working to undo the culture that supports an artist like that -- how did we even get an artist in the space who is essentially on top of the world and still talks like this? How do we get that? Why does he feel comfortable here doing that? Reporter: Wallen apologized in the statement to TMZ saying, I'm embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better. But for some, the apology was too little, too late. If you think Reporter: Nicky Guyton is the first country singer to be nominated for a grammy for her song "Black like me." She tweeted, when I read comments saying this is not who we are, I laugh, because this is exactly who country music is. I've witnessed it for ten years. You guys should just read some of the vile comments hurled at me on a daily basis. It's a cold, hard truth to face, but it is the truth. You've got an industry like this one that is built on generations of whitewashing of white supremacy, it's going to take a lot of work to undo that. Reporter: Morgan Wallen got a start on "The voice" in 2014. as his fame grew, so did his bad boy persona. In may 2020, he was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct after being kicked out of kid rock's bar in Tennessee and arguing outside when bouncers asked him to in October, he was scheduled to make his debut on "Saturday night live" as the musical guest when this video of him kissing strangers and partying maskless with fans in an Alabama bar surfaced. Clearly not following the show's covid-19 safety protocols. My actions this past weekend were pretty short-sighted. And they have obviously affected my long-term goals and my dreams. Reporter: He was invited back two months later, where the cast made fun of him over the incident. And I thank you in advance for giving this poor southern boy a second Yankee chance Reporter: After the "Snl" episode, he wrote the double album "Dangerous" which debuted at number one and is a streaming juggernaut, with over 240 million on demand streams of the songs, like "Wasted on you." And the mega hit "More than my hometown." I love you more There's really only about four viable black artists in country music right now, commercially. People have just been saying, it doesn't have to be that way forever. Then just when there's been a lot of discussion about elevating black artists in country music from the margins to the mainstream, you have the top artist in the genre come along and use the "N" word. Reporter: Country music has long been thought of as a music for white audiences and dominated by white artists like Luke combs. The country music industry is completely separate from all other music genres, all other music industries. They get to make their rules and enforce them however they want It's almost like Morgan put the ball in the industry's court and said, decide who you want to be. Yeah. Anybody black that's in or around this industry, that's not the stuff that keeps us up at night. What keeps us up is not being able to work, is not being able to do what we're called to do, is not being able to get a job as a black guitarist because nobody will let you be black at the front of the stage. Those are the issues that we have to get around. Reporter: Dolly parton, who famously said she never discusses politics, began supporting the black lives matter movement, telling billboard -- Of course black lives matter. Do we think our white asses are the only ones that matter? No. Reporter: Megastar Maren Morris, known for her top hits "Girl" -- just meet me in the middle Paid homage at her acceptance There are so many amazing black women that pioneered and continue to pioneer this genre. The issue of race is not a political issue. The issue of race is a human rights issue. A basic human rights issue. So when I see country artists standing up for that, that is so beautiful to me. Because it's not natural and normal for country artists to take those kinds of stands. Reporter: Guyton is part of a new generation of artists pushing to make country music more diverse. Country music is for everyone, and I want people to feel encouraged that they can love this genre, love this music, show up to the concerts, show up to the signings, show up to the award shows, and feel loved, and to see themselves and to be accepted. Reporter: T.J. Osborn also breaking down barriers. The 36-year-old, one half of brothers Osborn, known for hits like "Stay a little longer." Stay a little longer Reporter: Came out publicly yesterday in "Time" magazine saying, I want to get to the height of my career being completely who I am, I'm very comfortable being gay. I'm very proud to put this out there. I want to let you know that the person you know is me. And now you just know more about me. Reporter: This afternoon, he spoke his truth to Ellen. It's because you're in country music, and I think that's a genre that is more difficult, it seems, than any other music. Why do you think that is? You know, I think country really comes from a lot of rural roots that are a lot of kind of christianity, a lot of kind of old-school way of thinking. I really think that's changed a lot over the years. I know it's changed a lot over the years. I'm really kind of -- I'm curious to see how it all plays out with us going to rural America. Reporter: With one footsteping forward, and another rooted in the past, country music is facing a reckoning. What steps do you think the industry needs to take to make this change lasting? Ultimately it comes down to getting uncomfortable and to doing the things that they have never done before. If you're a songwriter and you're going in a room to write a song, if everybody around you is white, that's a problem. It is important that you look beyond the scope that you are normally used to looking through, that you have to break outside of your comfort zone. Now it's time for the industry to meet these people a little further than halfway.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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