Carrie Underwood’s CMA winking controversy explained

The dust is still settling from the 2020 CMA Awards, and while most of the night’s questions and memorable moments have been put to bed, there is one lingering question still on the internet’s collective mind: who was Carrie Underwood winking at?

Let’s explain. Many CMA fans were convinced that Underwood was a shoo-in to win entertainer of the year, the evening’s biggest and final award. However, as the show progressed, Marren Morris and her hit song “The Bones” came to dominate most of the female categories, including female vocalist of the year, beating out Underwood in the process.

When it came time for the night’s final award, however, Morris wasn’t nominated, Underwood was, and it seemed that she might finally win her first award of the night. Other nominees included Keith Urban, Luke Combs, and Miranda Lambert, but the award ultimately went to Eric Church. When Church’s name was called out, he took the stage, and the cameras cut to Underwood in the audience, who gave a subtle but unmistakable wink. So what did it mean?

Carrie Underwood's wink heard 'round the world

As soon as Carrie Underwood winked, Twitter lit up with theories about who exactly she was signaling. The first idea was that it was directed at Eric Church, with one tweeter writing, “Eric Church emotional while winning EOTY and Carrie giving him the tearful wink is such a loaded, fascinating TV moment.” Not everyone was convinced by this take, however, and since winks aren’t typically congratulatory, it’s worth investigating other theories.

Some people interpreted the wink as a gesture toward fellow nominee Miranda Lambert as a sign of sisterhood. One fan on Twitter wrote, “I really think Carrie’s wink was towards Miranda saying ‘it’s fine, we’re both good.'” Another user seconded that theory, suggesting that it could have been directed at host Reba McEntire for the same reason.

The juiciest theory of all, though, suggested that Underwood was winking to someone else, someone off-camera. One tweeter felt that it was a “sad wink,” writing, “I think she was winking to someone off to the side who gave her a look like ‘you were robbed’ and her wink back was like ‘it’s ok, I’m ok’ and she did her best to hold herself together despite the disappointment.” Seeing as she got all dressed up to go to an awards show in the middle of a pandemic only to receive zero awards, it’s fair to say some disappointment is warranted.

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