Frankly, I don’t really care what he said. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty, and I’m not that shocked by Robertson said. I think Drew Magary, the writer of the GQ piece, describes it best: “Okay, so perhaps it’s not exactly shocking that a deeply religious 67-year-old hunter from rural Louisiana would have, shall we say, enthusiastic ideas about what constitutes good Christian morality.” So no, I’m not outraged by his opinions. I disagree with many of his beliefs, but’s irrelevant for our purposes today.
If your Facebook timeline is like mine, I’m guessing it is chock full of people declaring their support for Robertson and his free speech rights. That’s all well and good, but let’s make sure we are in agreement on which “free” we’re talking about.
There is “free” as in “freedom”, which is what many are referring to. And that is absolutely correct: Robertson, like the rest of us, has certain unalienable rights under the First Amendment that allows him to say damn near anything he wants without fear of persecution.
But Robertson and his supporters are failing to account for the other “free” – the one that refers to the monetary value of something.
According to the GQ article, the Robertson clan makes approximately $200,000 per episode. They have one of the largest and widest ranging merchandising deals on the planet. Don’t believe me? Quick: name anybody else whose name/likeness is on a bazillion t shirts, as well as wine, duct tape, and approximately one out of every five items at Wal-Mart.
In other words, Duck Dynasty has been a cash cow for the Robertson family. If Phil Robertson isn’t smart enough to realize that some of his beliefs and opinions could get him into trouble, that is on him – not A&E, liberals, or any other boogeyman you want to point at.
In my 8 to 5 job, I work with a number of state employees and agencies. There are some elected officials within that state government that I have strong opinions on – both positive and negative. Yet, you’re not going to find very many of those opinions published here. Why? Because I like my job, and I really like (and need) my paycheck. With a mortgage, car payment, and three kids in daycare, I simply cannot risk getting fired because somebody (a client, co-worker, or management) is offended by my opinions.
From a 1st amendment standpoint, I would likely be covered saying just about anything I want in this space – especially if I’m doing so on my own time and equipment. But from a financial standpoint, I can’t afford to take that chance*. Voicing all of my opinions is not worth the potential ramifications.
*My apologies to those of you who were hoping to see how I might riff on the news that a certain elected official recently had eight inches of his colon removed. Those ideas aren’t going to see the light of day.
Apparently, Phil Robertson felt differently. Assuming he is smart enough to know that his opinions could cause an uproar, he made the financial decision that voicing his opinions on homosexuality was worth any potential loss of income. He may not have known that A&E would suspend him, but he should know that all free speech is not free.