The Most Controversial ACM Awards Moments Ever

The Academy of Country Music is one of the most respected music organizations in the nation. Formed by country artists and patrons back in 1964 to support the genre and connect more westerners with the music, the Academy has become a symbol of modern country music's finest tunes and talent.

Likewise, the Academy of Music Awards is one of the most anticipated award shows of the year among country fans. The show has given us some majorly memorable, star-studded moments ever since hitting airwaves in 1972. Throughout nearly five decades of broadcasting, the ACM Awards has featured its fair share of surprises, location changes, mishaps, and next-level performances.

Some of these moments, though, left a slightly larger and lasting impression than others — and not always for the best reason. Grab your cowboy hats and boots, because it's about to be a rodeo. Let's take a look at the most controversial ACM Award moments ever.

The Dixie Chicks got booed by their peers

The Chicks, formerly known as The Dixie Chicks, became country royalty in the early 2000s after earning huge sales and a Grammy for their 1998 debut Wide Open Spaces and their subsequent releases (via Britannica). However, that didn't save them from scathing criticism after lead vocalist Natalie Maines sent negative headlines swirling by stating to a London audience in 2003 that she was in disagreement with President George W. Bush's involvement in Iraq.

"We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas," Maines announced (per the New York Times). The band formed in Texas. That year, the platinum-selling country trio didn't win a single award at the ACM Awards, and to add more dirt to the wound, the group was booed every time its name was announced.

The Chicks have opened up about the incident in recent years and stand by making political remarks. In an Allure cover interview published in March 2020, Maines explained her thought process alongside bandmates Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire. "I wanted the audience to know who we were and what we were about," she said. "The politics of this band is inseparable from the music."

Rascal Flatts got caught lip-syncing

Watching awards show performances is like a guessing game with the goal of figuring out who is singing live and who is lip-syncing. Country singers seem to belt their tunes live more often than not, which is why it was so surprising when Rascal Flatts was caught lip-syncing during the 2011 ACM Awards while singing "Rewind."

The Grammy-winning band quickly put out the flames and took to Twitter to explain the incident. "After having performed several shows earlier in the week, Gary lost his voice," the band's official Twitter posted (via Daily Mail). "So instead of canceling our commitment to do the show, we made a last-minute decision to lip-sync. We've never done it before, and we're obviously not very good at it. We look forward to singing live again in the very near future!"

There have been no Rascal Flatts lip-syncing flubs since. If it ever were to happen, though, maybe the band can take a note out of Lorde's book and create an interpretive dance like she did when she had laryngitis at the 2017 MTV VMAs.

Taylor Swift took heat for attending the ACM Awards

We're used to seeing Taylor Swift set the stage on fire, but flames were blazing for the wrong reasons at the 2015 ACM Awards. Swift, who transitioned from country to pop in 2014 with her fifth studio album 1989, appeared at the award show to accept a special 50th Anniversary Milestone Award from her mother, Andrea Swift. Also accepting the award that night were country icons Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, and George Strait.

However, Twitter blew up as soon as they saw the "Lover" singer on their screens, questioning why she deserved to be there after ditching the country genre. Swift graciously accepted the award, remembering her country roots. "And so to the country music community, when I told you that I had made a pop album and that I wanted to go explore other genres, you showed me who you are with the grace you accepted that with. I will never forget it," she said in white cut-out dress. 

It seems that her country peers support her regardless. Maybe Swift and country music will get back together one day after all.

Miranda Lambert shaded ex-husband Blake Shelton

The downside to dating, marrying, and then divorcing in the entertainment industry is that exes are bound to run into each other at industry events. This happened to Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, who divorced in 2015 after four years of marriage, at the 2019 ACMs.

Lambert took an opportunity to throw some shade at the "God's Country" singer, who was sitting in the audience as she performed a medley hits. During her song "Little Red Wagon," she opted for a lyric change and switched "I live in Oklahoma" to "I got the hell out of Oklahoma." While she'd used these updated lyrics before, Shelton had never been in the audience for it.

The ex-lovebirds are now in separate long-term relationships. Lambert married retired NYPD cop Brendan McLoughlin in early 2019 after a few months of dating. The "Bluebird" songstress gushed over her husband to an Atlantic City crowd during her tour later that year, saying (via People), "Lucky for me, I'm not in a sad time anymore in my life, thank you to my sweet husband."

Meanwhile, Shelton and Gwen Stefani have been smitten after meeting as judges on The Voice and confirming their relationship in late 2015, shortly after Shelton and Lambert divorced. The couple collaborated on two songs: "Nobody But You" and "Happy Anywhere."

The 2020 ACM Awards air on Sept. 16, so fans will have to tune in and see if any more controversial moments unfold.