In contention for the win were Brent Faiyaz, Giveon, Lucky Daye, The Weeknd, and Chris Brown — and the last was crowned the winner.
When Rowland announced Brown’s name, the crowd booed audibly. She appeared surprised by the response, but proceeded with her presenting duties, explaining that he was not in attendance.
The reason for his absence remains unclear, though it’s possible that he’s embroiled in some kind of dispute with the AMAs producers after it was reported that they scrapped a Michael Jackson tribute that Brown had been scheduled to lead at the ceremony.
Over the weekend, Brown shared rehearsal footage of the musical number, which had been in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Jackson’s Thriller album. The Instagram post was captioned “U SERIOUS?,” seemingly in reference to the decision to pull the performance at the last minute.
In the comments section, he added: “WOULDVE been the ama performance but they cancelled me for reasons unknown.”
Given Brown’s absence, Rowland said that she would be accepting the award on his behalf, though the audience continued to express outrage.
“Excuse me…chill out,” she told the packed crowd with a raised finger, before going on to show her support for the singer.
“But I wanted to tell Chris, thank you so much for making great R&B music and I want to tell him thank you for being an incredible performer,” she continued. “I’ll take this award — bring it to you. I love you. Congratulations. And congratulations to all the nominees in this category.”
Brown has been a controversial figure since 2009 when he pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna while the two were in a relationship.
His career was briefly impacted by the incident, with brands cutting ties and radio stations refusing to play his songs.
Remaining in the public eye, Brown has gone on to achieve mainstream success with subsequent records, in spite of a number of other public controversies and legal woes.
Given his history, Rowland’s support of Brown came as a disappointment to some viewers, who quickly gathered on Twitter to express their thoughts.
“What the fuck is Chris brown doing still winning awards and why is Kelly Rowland up there thanking his ass wtf truly,” one user wrote.
“Chris Brown just won an #AMAs and Kelly Rowland shushed the audience so she could praise him and preach about how much she loves him? Whew! It might be time to turn this off,” added another.
Others even accused Rowland of “defending” the singer, writing: “Kelly Rowland defending Chris brown with her whole chest. Yikes.”
Among those to condemn Rowland’s actions was writer Meecham Whitson Meriweather, who wrote on Twitter that the move was “embarrassing.”
It’s important to note that not all viewers shared this viewpoint, with plenty of others speaking out to actively praise Rowland for addressing the crowd.
As such, Whitson Meriweather was challenged on his stance and ultimately doubled down, tweeting that the Destiny’s Child star “shushed the audience when they were rightfully outraged.”
“She thanked him for making music after she emphatically said his name and was happy he won — and shushed the audience when they were rightfully outraged. Let’s not act obtuse, the cameras aren’t rolling,” the tweet read.
This isn't the only time that a public figure has been criticized for praising Brown. In fact, last October, Lizzo came under fire for saying that he was her "favorite person."
In a fan video, Lizzo was seen approaching Brown and excitedly asking him for a photograph. "Can I get a picture with you? Because you're my favorite person in the whole fucking world," she says.
As in the current instance, fans' responses were varied. But, like Rowland, Lizzo faced backlash online, with one Twitter user writing at the time: "Lizzo calling Chris brown her favorite person in the whole fucking world IM PISSED OFF MAN."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to a representative for Kelly Rowland for comment.