Friday, October 07, 2011

Hank Williams, ESPN and Free Speech

Hank Williams Jr. compared President Obama to Hitler and as a result ESPN pulled William's iconic song "Are You Ready For Some Football" as the opening for Monday Night Football. I am sure that there are those that heard Williams' comments and had steam coming out of their ears, those that rolled their eyes, those that cheered, and those that simply shrugged their shoulders. I'm not going to get into a debate over the validity of Mr. Williams' comments. Suffice it to say that while I am not much of a supporter of President Obama's policies and ideas, I don't think comparing President Obama to a man that systematically eliminated millions of people based upon their race, creed, beliefs or physical/mental condition is particularly valid.

What struck me as interesting about this whole thing was Hank Williams Jr.'s response:
"After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It's been a great run."
Mr. Williams is claiming that ESPN violated his free speech right and he is absolutely wrong. ESPN did no such thing.

First of all, the First Amendment has all sorts of restrictions to it. Try claiming your right to free speech after getting arrested for joking about a bomb being on an airplane. Or try claiming your right to free speech after getting arrested for making a threatening statement to another person.

Second, ESPN did not prevent Mr. Williams from saying what he said or holding his particular view. They just decided that he is not the type of person that they want associated with their company. I would bet that most of us know that if we start bad mouthing our boss or employer in public that we will soon have nothing to complain about except being out of a job.

And that brings me to the third point. ESPN is a private company and not the government. The First Amendment specifically applies to the government of this country. Every company, private or public, can terminate someone's employment because of something that the employee said.

The First Amendment does not give us the ability to say whatever we want to say. There are limits to what can be said and it has been the responsibility of the judicial system to determine those limits. Whether or not the Supreme Court has always ruled properly on free speech cases is something that we can argue about freely.

Source of the Hank Williams Jr. quote: Sports Illustrated via The Consumerist.

No comments:

Post a Comment