Great White is apologizing for putting fans at risk after performing a concert in North Dakota without social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Footage from the well-attended event shows the rock band performing for a packed crowd, with hundreds of fans standing shoulder-to-shoulder without wearing face masks despite recommendations from health officials to maintain six feet apart and to wear face coverings.
"Great White would like to address our Thursday, July 9, at First On First Dickinson Summer Nights concert in North Dakota. We understand that there are some people who are upset that we performed this show, during this trying time," the band said in a statement, obtained by PEOPLE. "We assure you that we worked with the Promoter. North Dakota's government recommends masks be worn, however, we are not in a position to enforce the laws."
"We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement," the statement continued. "The Promoter and staff were nothing but professional and assured us of the safety precautions. Our intent was simply to perform our gig, outside, in a welcoming, small town. We value the health and safety of each and every one of our fans, as well as our American and global community. We are far from perfect."
The event's coordinator, April Getz, told the Dickinson Press that the event was "one of the first events this year that didn’t get canceled and was approved by the city."
"We do not have restrictions, believe it or not, we don’t have any. I guess it’s one of the first events this year that didn’t get canceled and was approved by the city; we’re all very, very excited about it," Getz said. "It's one of those things where if people feel comfortable coming down and mixing and mingling, that’s their personal choice. We’re leaving it up to everybody that chooses to attend."
Earlier this year, one of Great White's founding members Jack Russell — who is no longer in the band and who was not at the North Dakota concert — spoke out against people who refuse to wear face coverings in public.
"The way it works out, if I just wear [my mask], I'm not that safe. If you put yours on too, I'm 70 percent safe as opposed to being zero-point-something [safe]. It's amazing the amount that it changes," Russel told Austria's Mulatschag, according to Blabbermouth.
"It's, like, if you don't wanna help yourself, help everybody else. 'Well, it's my right. It's my human right.' Well, look, dude, you've gotta pay for your car to get smogged, you've gotta have a seat belt, you have a driver's license, you have to have a license to be born, you have to have a marriage license. I mean, so you have to wear a mask for a while so you don't die," he added. "What's the problem?"
Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall founded Great White in 1982. Both musicians were on stage in February 2003 when a fire caused by a pyrotechnic display at their concert claimed 100 lives and injured over 200.
Thursday's mask-less concert was scorned by many on social media, some even referencing the 2003 tragedy. "Imagine dying because of a Great White concert, that's as close to touching living history as you can get. Like jumping off the Freedom Tower," one user wrote.
According to Variety, the band is next scheduled to perform on August 7 at Fort Madison, Iowa’s Riverfest FM festival. “With all of the uncertainty, it would have been easy to throw in the towel on this year, but we firmly believe that ‘If we rock it, they will come’ and boy, do we have a line-up that is prepared to do just that,” the festival shared on Facebook.
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