LAS VEGAS - Kenny Chesney may not have wanted online voters to decide one of country music's top awards, but he still asked his fans to click for him.
Chesney criticized the process Sunday night after his supporters propelled him to a fourth straight entertainer of the year win at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
"I don't think it's right that they pick the one award that means the most, that all the artists sacrifice the most for," Chesney told reporters backstage after thanking fans for voting for him as he accepted the award onstage.
But that didn't mean Chesney hadn't played along. Chesney's MySpace page still carried a large banner Monday urging fans to "bring it home for KC," with links to the academy's online page and messages from fans lower on the page.
The page also included a May 1 posting urging fans to vote, with a video of Chesney saying that awards are important for history's sake - so people can look back to see what musicians had accomplished.
Chesney made clear Sunday night that his criticism was an industry complaint about the process for one award - not a dig at his fans or at the awards show overall. It was the first time in the show's 43 years that the top prize was decided by a fan vote.
Traditionally, the awards are decided by ACM members, mostly industry insiders; that didn't change for the other awards. The industry's other major awards show, the County Music Association Awards, also decides its winners by a vote of members who are industry professionals.
A spokeswoman for the Academy of Country Music said Monday that senior officials for the academy were not immediately available to comment because they were travelling.
Bob Romeo, executive director of the academy, has called the change to fan voting a "historical accomplishment" in the award show's program, and said it fosters more interaction with viewers and participants.
Chesney saw it another way.
"They've taken it from what the award really represents (and turned it) into a sweepstakes to see who can push people's buttons the hardest on the Internet," Chesney said.
With his fourth win as entertainer of the year, Chesney ties Garth Brooks and trails only Alabama, which won five in a row. Chesney also was this year's leading nominee with 11, and ended up winning twice. His other win was for vocal event of the year.
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