Darius Rucker defends The Chicks: 2003 blacklisting over political comments was 'the dumbest thing'

The singer spoke about the risks of being politically outspoken in country music

Darius Rucker is speaking out to defend The Chicks years after they were blacklisted in country music for comments they made about then-President George W. Bush.

Rucker has become outspoken in recent weeks about the Black Lives Matter movement following heightened awareness of systemic racism sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd. The singer was asked during an interview with the “Today” show if he fears that taking a political stance in country music might be a risky venture.

“One sentence can end your career in country music. Proven,” he told Harry Smith. “Look at, you know, the Dixie Chicks. The biggest thing in the business, they say one sentence and every station stops playing their music. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It wasn’t about their politics, it was about their music.”

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In 2003, The Chicks, formerly known as the Dixie Chicks, were hit with backlash when lead singer Natalie Maines criticized Bush for invading Iraq, saying, “We’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

Darius Rucker called The Chicks' blacklisting in country music 'the dumbest thing.'

Darius Rucker called The Chicks' blacklisting in country music 'the dumbest thing.' (Getty Images)

At the time, the comment sparked outrage, with radio stations pulling their songs from the airwaves and fans staging album-burning rallies. The New York Times noted in a recent interview with the band that Toby Keith was among their most vocal critics, staging concerts in front of an oversized doctored photo of Maines embracing Saddam Hussein.

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Rucker, meanwhile, noted that times have changed and political silence is not only difficult for a public figure to maintain but morally questionable, especially for a black man with kids.

“Watching them go through this, wow,” Rucker said of his children while getting emotional. “Watching my kids go through this, I think they're just at that age now where they have to look at it. I’ve lived with racism my whole life. It made me sit there and go ‘I can’t keep living my life like everything is OK, because everything is not OK.’”

The country singer believes he’s already lost fans since speaking out in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, he told Smith that he simply couldn’t remain silent forever.

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“Really, you get to the point where you go, that’s just how it is. You know, when I was going to radio stations and you get guys telling me we’re not going to play you because you’re a Black guy and I’m just like ‘OK, that’s just the way it is.’ But I can’t live like that anymore,” he said. “I can’t just go ‘it’s OK’ and go on with my life and let somebody say something I know they shouldn’t say.”