After publicly comparing President Obama to Hitler, Hank Williams, Jr. was dropped by ESPN as the introductory performer to the popular Monday Night Football broadcasts. In response, Williams made this comment:
After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made my decision. By pulling my opening Oct. 3, 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.
Like many of my students, Mr. Williams has no idea that the First Amendment applies only to government censorship of speech. People, which includes major corporations according to the Supreme Court, are free to object to one's speech, by speaking (or acting) as they see fit. That is the theory of the free marketplace of ideas. Speech which has little value will be valued little. I am free to express my opinion in response to yours. And ESPN is free to express its opinion of Mr. Williams' speech by disassociating itself from him.
In the event that anyone was listening, Sarah Palin was quoted as saying that it is "disgusting" that people are criticized for the things that they say. There's another public figure who needs a primer on free speech.
Below are some powerpoint slides of an exercise that I have used in class to illustrate these points. But first, are you ready for some footbaaaawl?
Free Speech Exercise