The sole surviving original member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd has distanced the group from a symbol they once proudly wrapped themselves up in: the Confederate Flag.
And in doing so, that last original member, guitarist Gary Rossington, has sparked a backlash among some of the band’s staunch supporters who see his move as an affront to everything the band once stood for.
In a CNN interview earlier this month, Rossington said that the flag had been hijacked by racists and, in the process, become detached from it’s original meaning as a symbol of rebelliousness and states’ rights. As a result, he said, he was concerned about the band being associated with the flag lest people get the wrong idea.
“Through the years, people like the KKK and skinheads kinda kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers. That’s what it was about,” he said. “We didn’t want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.”
To some fans, that seemed to completely contradict the band’s image—one line in Sweet Home Alabama, for instance, has been interpreted as applauding Alabama’s infamous racist Governor George Wallace. Outraged, fans flocked to the comment section of CNN’s piece to voice their anger.
“I guess this means they will be opening for the Dixie Chicks?,” one commenter wrote. “They should have taken a name like ‘Obama’s Politically Correct Sell Your Soul Make Believe Imposters’ or something,” wrote another.
With fans grumbling, Rossington posted a short message on the band’s site Friday clarifying his remarks and saying the Confederate Flag would remain a staple of Skynyrd shows.
“We know what the Dixie flag represents and its heritage; the Civil War was fought over States rights,” he wrote.
“I only stated my opinion that the confederate flag, at times, was unfairly being used as a symbol by various hate groups, which is something that we don’t support the flag being used for,” he added. “The Confederate flag means something more to us, Heritage not Hate.”