An attempt at self-imposed political correctness has landed country music group Lady A in legal limbo.
Court papers filed Wednesday in Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee reveal the group has decided to sue black Seattle-based musician Anita White for the right to perform and commercially release content under a new name.
Formerly known as Lady Antebellum, the group made headlines this past June when it signaled support for a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement with an overnight rebrand, distancing itself from previous allusions to the slave-holding South after the officer-involved deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The surprise name change, however, ran the group afoul of White, who has performed blues music under the Lady A moniker for many years.
“This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done,” White told Rolling Stone last month. “Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
“This is too much right now. They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it,” she added.
“It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them,” White said. “If it did, they would’ve done some research.”
Despite the strong rhetoric, a virtual meeting conducted in hopes of fostering good will and open dialogue between White and the band shortly after the controversy arose was said to have gone well.
Images from that meeting posted to Lady A’s official Twitter page on June 15 showed the involved parties to be all smiles as they shared stories, prayed with one another and attempted to come to an understanding.
“Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A,” the country music group wrote. “Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come.”
Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A. Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come.#LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist pic.twitter.com/P3uyhfO3gX
— Lady A (@ladya) June 15, 2020
When more did come, however, good will was allegedly in short supply — and Lady A lawyered up.
Behind the scenes, White had reportedly turned down a range of concessions offered as talks commenced, including a binding agreement to professional collaboration, continued support of the blues singer’s career and shared use of the Lady A brand.
Attempts by band members Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley to make peace were met with a new version of the original settlement agreement, edited to feature “an exorbitant monetary demand” in exchange for the moniker, Lady A’s lawsuit said.
Specifically, White wanted $10 million, according to a statement from the band.
Already in possession of the trademarks for both Lady Antebellum and the fan-assigned nickname Lady A since as early as July 2011, the popular country group was unwilling to make such concessions, opting to sue for affirmation of its trademark right to the name.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” Lady A’s statement said. “She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”
Dear fans… pic.twitter.com/7JlcH2NMl6
— Lady A (@ladya) June 11, 2020
“It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blindspots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word ‘Antebellum’ from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by,” the band added, referencing an earlier rebranding announcement in which the group described itself as “regretful and embarrassed” over its original name.
“We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world,” they added. “We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.”
White, for her part, has indicated she has little intention of taking a different tone or tenor going forward.
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