Luke Bryan Issues Statement as Fans Vow to Boycott His Music & ‘American Idol’

Luke Bryan

ABC/YouTube Luke Bryan during auditions on "American Idol"

Country star and “American Idol” judge Luke Bryan walked into a firestorm of controversy over the weekend when he welcomed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis onto the stage during a concert in Jacksonville on October 28, 2022. Twitter exploded with fans’ reactions to the move, including some thrilled to see Bryan with DeSantis and others so upset that they’ve called for boycotts of his music and “Idol.” The noise over the governor’s appearance has grown so loud that Bryan has now issued a statement in response.

Florida Governor Appears With Luke Bryan to Announce Hurricane Ian Donation

DeSantis, who is in the final days of running for re-election, walked out onstage at the start of Bryan’s Jacksonville concert to help the singer announce his plans to donate a “large portion” of the proceeds from his upcoming concert in Estero, Florida, to the Florida Disaster Fund, the state’s private fund responding to natural disasters. The money will help communities including Estero impacted by Hurricane Ian in September. Ian destroyed countless homes and businesses and, according to The Washington Post, killed at least 89 people.

“We’re going to have some fun and we’re going to raise some money tonight for the great state of Florida,” he told concertgoers before DeSantis walked out on the stage, throwing campaign hats into the screaming crowd as Bryan smiled. Audience member Bonnie Upright tweeted her video of the moment, which was shared widely, and wrote, “It’s deafening in here.”

Bryan had to reschedule his Florida concerts as Ian was moving closer to the state, but Estero was hit so hard that it wasn’t clear for a while whether the Hertz Arena would be ready for him to hold his rescheduled concert there on November 2.

“Because of the hurricane they had to use the venue that I was performing in as a shelter,” he told the crowd on Friday as he stood next to DeSantis. “Well, we’ve been going back and forth, we didn’t know if it was too soon to play or not but the area of Estero said ‘get your ass to Estero.’ So, we’re doing a concert.”

Social media videos show the crowd roaring with approval before Bryan continued.

“So, what we’re going to do is give a large portion of the proceeds in Estero, Florida, to everybody that’s bought tickets, kept the ticket, and spending the money. I’m donating that money to the great state of Florida.”

DeSantis added, “The state of Florida had to deal with the major hurricane last month and it’s not easy to deal with, it’s hurt a lot of people. Though I can tell you this, show me any other state that can rebuild bridges in three days. I don’t think you can find that.”

Following the announcement, Bryan said he had a gift for the governor and jokingly handed him a red Georgia Bulldogs jersey to signify his own allegiance to Georgia, given that the annual college football matchup between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia was happening the next day. The two laughed, high-fived and Bryan put his hand on the governor’s shoulder.

Word spread quickly about Bryan’s surprise guest on Twitter. While supporters of DeSantis were thrilled by the appearance, there was a substantial backlash from fans who were not. Many pointed to the governor’s most controversial acts, like signing a policy in early 2022 that LGBTQ+ advocates nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevents topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity from being taught in schools to the state’s youngest students.

One tweet received nearly 40,000 likes from someone who said he’d been a lifelong fan of Bryan. He wrote, “As a gay man, it truly hurts seeing him bring out – and effectively campaign for – the governor who introduced the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. Heartbreaking.”

Many people tweeted that they plan to stop listening to Bryan’s music, and some said they’ll no longer watch “American Idol” as long as he’s a judge. The hashtag #boycottlukebryan has also begun to take off on the platform.

One person’s tweet, which received nearly 3,000 likes, said, “Hey @AmericanIdol did you know you had a singing judge, Luke Bryan, who supports a racist and homophobic on your show. If you continue to have him on the show you will lose my viewership. Disgusting!”

Another wrote, “Luke Bryan, so disappointed you brought Ron Desantis on stage at your concert. So many LGBTQ+ kids audition/ look to you as a model on AI. He is exactly NOT that.”

The rising backlash has now prompted Bryan to respond.

Bryan Issues Statement on Twitter Calling DeSantis a ‘Very Polarazing Figure’

"American Idol" judges

ABC/YouTube“American Idol” judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan

Bryan stayed mum on the controversy until midday on Sunday, October 30, when the backlash got so loud that he decided to issue a formal statement on Twitter.

“Governor Desantis is a very polarizing figure,” he wrote in the statement, posted in white text on a black background. “But I grew up in a country where if a governor ask you if they can come and raise awareness to help victims of a natural disaster you help.”

“I’ve generally stayed out of politics throughout my career,” Bryan continued. “I knew people would chatter about this but for me the more important piece was If I am going to come back there a few weeks after a large portion of people have been affected by a natural disaster in a state where people have been good to me this felt right. Raise awareness, have a little fun between the GA and FL college fans and do what I love on stage.”

Bryan closed his statement by writing, “This is all I’m saying about this. I’ll be outdoors with my boys. Enjoy your Sunday. Love y’all #GoDawgs.” He also included the text number — 20222 — to support the fundraiser.

The statement did little to quiet the noise, though. Some people who support DeSantis retweeted Bryan’s message celebrating that he’d not backed down.

“Thank you for not apologizing to the woke mob,” one wrote. “Side note, it is ok to voice your support for the greatest Governor in United States history.”

However, others voiced their frustration at Bryan for “giving in” to social media pressure and issuing a statement in the first place.

One wrote, “DeSantis is only ‘polarizing’ because he’s not a Democrat. You shouldn’t have even responded to any of this.”

Those upset about the appearance said Bryan’s statement didn’t heal the damage they said had already been done.

“Sorry but that’s not good enough,” one person responded. “You can raise awareness (and money) with your own name. Having Desantis on stage with you have the impression (true or not) that you supported him. In this day and age, we all have to be willing to speak out against lies, hate and injustice.”

Another fan said it would be better if Bryan simply came clean about his true feelings.

“You can’t straddle the fence on issues that matter. Especially when our very democracy is on the line,” she wrote. “Man up, Luke. Admit that you either made a mistake when you brought him onstage, or you support his agenda. Like it or not, you have a voice that people listen too.”