ESPN vs Hank Williams Jr – First Amendment Violation Or Corporate Double Standard?

By Robert D. Cobb

With ESPN’s recent termination of country music star, Hank Williams Jr over his recent analogy of comparing U.S. President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, there are some sports fans who feel that ESPN’s decision to sack Williams Jr violated his right to free speech and is nothing more than censorship.

The highly-charged and hotly debated issue among sports fans is that Williams Jr did not—directly—compare Obama to Hitler and that it is unclear—still—as to whom Williams Jr was referring to in his comments which were made on FOX News’s “Fox And Friends” show before the Monday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As a moderate, I will actually try my best to borrow from FOX News and present a “fair and balanced” viewpoint on this deliciate and very sensitive topic.

The First Amendment gives all Americans the right to freedom of speech, ESPN’s firing may have triggered a much bigger—and depending on your point of view, overblown— firestorm than Williams Jr’s own comments.

Make no mistake, Williams Jr is fully entitled to express his thoughts as he sees fit, just ESPN has an equal right to choose whether or not to distance themselves from Williams Jr equally. While I do not agree with Williams Jr’s comments which were completely inappropriate and a very badly chosen analogy, he did—and has the right—to say what he said, which is protected under the U.S. Constitution.

Football fans have their own rights to choose whether or not they want to watch ESPN or their rivals, NFL on Fox or CBS to watch their favorite NFL team on Sunday, ESPN is a multi-billion dollar corporate entity that is about maintaining its distinct brand and a right to protect its own interests.

At the end of the day, it is all about choices and learning how to deal with the consequences of the actions that are a result of them. Williams made a bad choice of words, which resulted in a media controversy which led to his ouster—right or wrong—he made his own choice to speak what he said about Obama which is his legally protected right as a American citizen, which in turn ESPN made their own choice as a media entity to end their partnership.

Next to sports, politics is what makes America so special and unique, we may root for rival teams or have different political views, we may be Republican, Democrat or Tea Party but we all are united by a common passion of NFL football on Sundays.

This is how America was founded and what makes it so special, is the beauty that we can argee to disagree on various topics, whether or not Williams Jr or ESPN were right or wrong in their respective actions, we all have the enviable right of choice.

And that is as simple as black or white.

Follow me on Twitter, @RobertCobb_NFL

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