Country singer Luke Combs apologized for appearing in photos with Confederate flags, acknowledging why they are problematic.

NPR music critic Ann Powers asked Combs about the images during a panel she moderated for radio broadcasters about accountability in country music featuring Combs and Maren Morris on Wednesday.

The photos in question included screenshots from a past music video where Combs appeared with singer, Ryan Upchurch. The singer was seen with Confederate battle flags.

Combs explained that the images were from seven or eight years ago, but that there was still no excuse for them. He said at the time, he did not understand what the flag meant.

“And as I have grown in my time as an artist and as the world has changed drastically in the last five to seven years, I am now aware of how painful that image can be to someone else,” Combs said. “I would never want to be associated with something that brings so much hurt to someone else.”

Combs said he recognizes his position in the public eye and wants to use it for good. he said he is trying to learn and change. He said he also wants to encourage more country artists to have these types of difficult conversations.

“Hate is not a part of my core values, and it’s not something that I consider a part of myself at all…I’m here to say, ‘I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to get better,'” Combs said.

Combs’ apology comes shortly after country singer Morgan Wallen was filmed saying the n-word. Wallen has since apologized, saying that there was no excuse for his actions. Wallen’s recording contract was suspended after the video was released.

Morris publicly denounced Wallen’s actions, but admitted that she also did not know the full history of the confederate flag when she was younger. She said she viewed it as “southern pride” for a long time.

“I appreciate Morgan saying ‘quit defending me’ to his fans, because it’s indefensible. He knows that. We know that,” Morris said. “All we can do, so there isn’t an elephant in the room, is say that out loud, hold our peers accountable. I don’t care if it is awkward sitting down the row from you at the next awards show.”

She said when festivals or concerts fly the confederate flag, it makes her not want to play there or work with those organizations. She encouraged other country artists to demand better from big companies and venues.

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