When sports fans look back on 2017, the NFL’s “take a knee” protests during the National Anthem will be remembered as a divisive issue in an entertainment realm that is usually as unifying as music.
Nineties country star Neal McCoy openly criticizes the movement in his new song “Take a Knee My Ass.” Footage of a live performance of the song went viral online, and it went on to become one of the most downloaded country songs last week. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance has been a big part of McCoy’s show for the past two years.
“They say they’ve got the right to protest,” McCoy tells CMT Hot 20 Countdown, “and I say, ‘Yes they do.’ Everybody does. But just don’t do it during a song that our country’s stood for over 100 years. Now is not a good time. And that’s all we’re trying to say.”
McCoy’s patriotism comes from growing up as the son of an immigrant and U.S. military veteran. His father served in the Army during World War II, and he met his Filipino mother while he was serving overseas.
“She was 13 when the Japanese took over Manila,” McCoy recalls. “So she grew up living under martial law most of her life. It was a very tough upbringing. So when she did marry my dad and came over and had us kids, she told us at a young age, ‘You outta be grateful. I know you don’t understand now, but you live in the greatest country there is. And you have rights and freedoms that I promise not most countries have.'”
McCoy adds that it is difficult for entertainers to comment on political issues publicly. To do so would mean potentially losing fans. And he says his new song has been met with equal parts backlash and praise.
“It remains to be seen if people will accept it,” he says, “but I do love that a lot of people have seen the video and have heard the song.
“I fancy myself a tough guy. But boy, the things they say about your family … It’s just like wow, guys, it’s just a song. I mean I understand that people are very passionate about both sides of it.”
Thursday (Dec. 7) marked the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. McCoy’s full Hot 20 interview will air on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 9-10) at 9 a.m. ET. Kane Brown and Carly Pearce will co-host the all-new episode.