Jason Aldean is dealing with backlash over his decision to perform on Saturday Night Live instead of singing the national anthem at UFC 216 in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Aldean, who was on stage when the fatal mass shooting took place at the Route 91 Harvest Festival less than two weeks ago, reportedly turned down UFC president Dana White’s request to sing the national anthem at UFC’s pay-per-view event which was held in Vegas just a few blocks where the shooting took place. The PPV event had 15 survivors of the shooting and hundreds of first responders in attendance, according to Yahoo Sports. The mass shooting claimed 58 lives and injured more than 500 people.
Aldean reportedly declined the UFC invite, with his team explaining that he was so shaken up from the shooting that he may never perform live again. But on the same night as the UFC event, the country singer turned up unannounced to perform on NBC’s late-night sketch comedy series, Saturday Night Live, even though singer Sam Smith was the scheduled musical guest. Jason Aldean offered heartfelt words to the Studio 8H crowd then performed a cover of late rocker Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” in lieu of the show’s usual cold open.
Dana White blasted Jason Aldean’s choice to choose SNL over UFC, saying the country star’s image was more important to him than returning to a Las Vegas stage to help the city—and country music fans—heal.
“His image was more important than coming back to Vegas and playing for the people who are his fans and who got shot watching him play,” White told TMZ Sports.
“F**k you, Jason Aldean. Stay out of Vegas.”
White slammed Aldean and other country music stars who declined his invite to sing at the event.
“Country music was attacked. Those were country music fans,” White said of the victims.
“Those are people who buy your albums and none of you country music people could sing the anthem in front of survivors and first responders?”
Dana White was not the only one who called out Jason Aldean for his first live performance after the mass shooting. Critics took to social media to blast the country music superstar for choosing the “safe” SNL stage in New York over the event being held in the grieving Nevada city.
With Jason Aldean thousands of miles away from Vegas to perform on Saturday Night Live in New York City, Everlast sang “America, the Beautiful” during the opening of the UFC 216 event. Jason Aldean has not responded to Dana White’s comments about his surprise SNL gig.
Take a look at the video below to see Jason Aldean’s performance on Saturday Night Live.
[Featured Image by Will Heath/NBC]