Add another American to the list of people who don’t understand the First Amendment: Hank Williams Jr.
After he compared Obama to Hitler on Fox News on Monday morning, ESPN yanked Hank’s “Are You Ready For Some Football?” opening number from its Monday Night Football telecast. The next day, he admitted his comments were dumb, but the network announced today that it was parting ways with him permanently anyway.
Williams tried to play it off as his decision, posting on his website: “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.”
Hank doesn’t understand how freedom of speech works. The First Amendment does not guarantee that you can say whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, however you want without consequence. It only guarantees that the government can’t stop you. That’s why you probably can’t walk up to your boss, call him an asshole, and expect to keep your job. It’s why you can’t stand up in a house of worship during services and start reading “The Great Gatsby” at the top of your lungs. It’s why you can’t put up a billboard saying “Jimmy Jenkins Ate My Children” without expecting a call from Jimmy’s attorney.
Now, the First Amendment does guarantee that Hank has the right to be rowdy and make his Hitler analogies elsewhere, as long as his employer or whoever owns the microphone allow him to. If it were my microphone, I’d take him aside and suggest he study some history until he understands that there’s no one in the world today that reaches the Hitler standard, so any such analogies are moot. Then I’d have to explain what “moot” means. Are you ready for a dictionary?
I don’t know how much Hank was paid to sing the Monday Night Football opens for the last 20 years, but I’m sure he blew a serious paycheck by sticking his foot in his mouth. He’ll no doubt have a bunch of crazy right-wing Obama haters rally to his defense, but since his website lists exactly zero upcoming tour dates and he hasn’t had a song played on country radio or released an album for a couple of years, his future career prospects in the short-term seems about as bright as that of the presidential candidate he’s endorsed — Michele Bachmann, another constitutional genius.
Meanwhile, I have a suggestion for who should sing the new Monday Night Football song, and I’m sure all of those who support Hank’s right to speak out would agree this is the perfect choice: The Dixie Chicks.