Charley Pride's Manager Addresses CMA Awards Critics After Singer's Death

Charley Pride died on Dec. 12 due to complications from COVID-19, one month after he performed at the CMA Awards in Nashville on Nov. 11. After Pride's death, several people, including country artists Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton — who both attended the CMA Awards — raised questions about the indoor ceremony, wondering whether that might have been where Pride contracted the coronavirus.

Pride's manager and longtime bass player Kevin Bailey addressed that criticism in a new interview with The Dallas Morning News, sharing that Pride was tested multiple times while in Nashville and at least twice after returning home to Dallas, with all tests coming back negative. "This COVID thing, it’s impossible to know where it came from, where you got it," Bailey said. "I do know that Charley tested negative twice after he came back from Nashville, and it may have even been three times. My understanding is that when Charley went into the hospital, we thought he had pneumonia. Somebody decided to do another test, and then they put him in the COVID unit."

He added that the Country Music Association "took every precaution that you can imagine" and that "we were tested almost daily." The CMA issued a statement shortly after Pride's death, explaining the rigorous safety protocols followed for everyone involved with the show.

"Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions," the statement read. "Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further."

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Pride performed at the 2020 ceremony and was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to him by Jimmie Allen. In a post on Facebook, Pride's family shared that the singer was admitted to the hospital in late November "with COVID-19 type symptoms."

"Despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus," the message read. "Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously."