Sports Law Blog
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Friday, June 23, 2006
Gary Glitter Proof? The Law and Morality of NFL Game Day Music
The National Football League has asked its teams to refrain from playing Gary Glitter's popular anthem "Rock and Roll Part 2" (aka, the "Hey" song) on game day. In case you don't know what song I'm talking about, you can listen to it here. You will surely recognize it; it has to be one of the most regularly played songs during sporting events.
So why has Glitter's song moved onto the NFL's Do Not Play List? It's because he will be spending the next three years in a Vietnamese prison for molesting two young girls, and the NFL doesn't want its games to be associated with a convicted child molester. The league also doesn't want Glitter to earn royalties from the playing of his song.
But let's play Devil's Advocate for a moment, and pretend that we are Gary Glitter fans who regularly attend NFL games, and who find his music to be an essential component of the game experience. What might we argue to keep his song playing? Here are five arguments:
1) Being guilty in Vietnam isn't the same thing as being guilty in the United States.
In fact, Vietnamese courts employ a lower standard of proof for criminal convictions, and feature fewer procedural protections for criminal defendants. So perhaps Glitter might be a free man had those same charges been brought in the United States.
2) Glitter has long been suspected of being a child molestor.
I know what you are thinking: How is that a positive for Glitter? It isn't, but it invites the question of why the NFL would want to ban his song now. It isn't like Glitter's "problems" have been a secret. In fact, back in 1999, a British court convicted him of possession of child pornography, for which he served two months in jail, and he was classified as a sex offender. Maybe more revealing, the Cambodian Government--which somehow tolerates the genocidal Khmer Rouge--couldn't tolerate Glitter. It expelled him in 2002 for alleged sexual misconduct with children, an act which prompted his move to Vietnam. So why should a conviction of this guy in a Vietnamese court suddently make all the difference to the NFL?
3) What About Marv (Albert)?
Marv Albert is the lead play-by-play voice of Westwood One's NFL coverage, calls Monday Night Football games and has called every Super Bowl since 2002. This is true even though, in 1997, he pled guilty to misdemeanor sexual assault charges (after being charged with felony charges of forcible sodomy). Granted, his sexual crime was inflicted upon an adult, but Albert's role with the NFL is clearly larger than Glitter's, and Albert himself is far better known than Glitter. In fact, I had no idea who Glitter was before this story broke, and I never knew or bothered to learn who sung that song. It didn't matter.
4) Axl Rose and Ozzy Osbourne say Hey!
NFL teams routinely play songs by artists who have been in legal trouble. For instance, the song "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses is often played during NFL games. It is sung by Axl Rose, who was once arrested for assaulting a neighbor with a bottle of wine and is widely suspected of using illegal drugs. Or take Ozzy Ozbourne songs, or R. Kelly songs--they too are played during games and are sung by artists who have encountered legal troubles (and Kelly was recently arrested for statutory rape). If we ban Gary Glitter songs, then shouldn't we ban those songs, too? In fact, to be consistent, perhaps only songs sung by "decent" artists, like John Tesh or Kenny G or Amy Grant, should be played (and yes, I too would stop going to NFL games if that happened, but you see the point).
5) Does playing a song during an NFL game even celebrate the artist?
As mentioned above, I had no idea who sung "Rock and Roll Part 2," and didn't even know who Gary Glitter was. Maybe I'm in the minority on those fronts. But regardless, playing a song during a game seems more about celebrating the team or players who made great plays, and getting the crowd into the game, than about the artist who happened to have sung the song.
Taking off my Devil's Advocate cap, however, I actually don't have a problem with the NFL's request. The league doesn't want a convicted child molestor to receive royalties from the playing of songs during NFL games. Also, the league is not forcing teams to do anything; it is simply making a request. But I do see potential inconsistencies that might aggravate the Gary Glitter Fan Club, whose website, as Anonymous notes in the comments section, apparently may infect your computer with spyware if you are using Internet Explorer. So be warned before visting the Worlwide Glorius Glam & Glittering website or get the proper protection (i.e. download Mozilla Firefox) and then visit.