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Call the FCC?

During the first quarter of the New Orleans Saints-Philadelphia Eagles playoff game, the Fox broadcast lingered on a young lady wearing a t-shirt bearing the phrase "F*ck da Eagles" (albeint without the asterisk). Now I'm no expert on indecency law, but if Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction was an issue, wouldn't this be as well? [to be clear, I'm not defending the FCC's standards. I'm just wondering about the consistency of their application.]

UPDATE: I've correct the post ("da" instead of "the").

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Call the FCC? - Update:
  2. Call the FCC?
Mark H.:
I would think there's a substantial difference between a featured, paid, half-time entertainment act and a fan in the stands. Yes?
1.13.2007 11:30pm
s806:
I think the indavertent nature of it might be a mitigating circumstance. I'm surprised they didn't immediately change cameras or turn off the mic, as is often the case.

It's funny you should mention this because on CSPAN a FCC lawyer was arguing some case and the Judge said, "F*ck", describing how indecency standards are partly determined by their use for shock value. Well that shocked the sh*t out of me to hear that in CSPAN.
1.14.2007 12:21am
Truth Seeker:
I would think there's also a substantial difference between a word printed on a t-shirt and an actual live human areola in full view of millions of underage children.

I'm not sure why American youth (unlike European youth who see them on TV all the time on TV and drink alcohol at age 16) are presumed to be vulnerable to areolas. But according to my government they are dangerous. Need I ask more?
1.14.2007 12:24am
Stephen Aslett (mail):
No. The fan's t-shirt doesn't violate contemporary community standards. An average person is more likely to high-five that fan than feel offended.

Eagles fans don't count in that calculus, of course, because we all know they're mindless drones--not human beings. :)
1.14.2007 12:26am
Lasciata (mail):
The shot was shown on a replay, not broadcast live. That takes it out of the realm of "oops."
1.14.2007 12:41am
Anne Ahnemis:

I think the indavertent nature of it might be a mitigating circumstance. I'm surprised they didn't immediately change cameras or turn off the mic, as is often the case.

The problem with that is that it was a replay. That was a live shot. Couple that with the fact that, as far as I know, all NFL games are still broadcast on a seven-second delay, and it sure seems to me like FOX had all kinds of time to catch that.
1.14.2007 12:42am
Anne Ahnemis:

"The problem with that is that it was a replay. That was a live shot."

That's supposed to say, "That was not a live shot."
1.14.2007 12:43am
John R. Mayne (mail):
Wasn't the exact quote, "F*ck da Eagles," if I saw it right, except without the asterisk?

I think the failure to use the appropriate article was certainly worth sanction.

What interested me, also, is how she was let in the stadium. My guess is she had something on over the shirt.

(I'd be more outraged over the shirt had I not attended many sporting events in Philadelphia, where the ushers threw out troublemakers, like when some guy shouted profanites at and deliberately spilled beer on the guy in the Mets hat. At least when they threw him out, they let him keep his Mets hat.)

--JRM
1.14.2007 1:07am
Oren Elrad (mail):
It is patently unreasonable to believe that FOX can, in 7 seconds, scan every fan in every frame for obscene tee-shirts and gestures. Even in an instant replay, I wouldn't impose that sort of burden on them. It's not in the realm of "oops", it's a small obscenity in a sea of background noise.

That makes it patently different from the JJ thing (although I don't support fines in either case on different grounds) since she was the center of attention, as it were and the network ought to actually be paying attention to what she is and isn't showing.
1.14.2007 1:46am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
``Fuck'' is not a verb, in the phrase ``Fuck the Eagles.''

It is, rather, grammatically speaking, in its entirety, an epithet.

As such, it has no referent.

It thus escapes the FCC's categories, which as I recall had adverbs and adjectives pretty well confused already.

ref: Quang Phuc Dong, ``English Sentences without Overt Grammatical Subject,'' _Studies Out In Left Field : Defamatory Essays Presented to James D. McCawley on the Occasion of His 33rd or 34th Birthday_, Zwicky et al. eds., 1971
1.14.2007 1:54am
techster (mail):
actually, I think 'fuck' is a verb there, subjunctive mood- either an indirect command, or a wish/desire.
1.14.2007 2:28am
Visitor Again:
an actual live human areola in full view of millions of underage children.

Actual and live and human all at once? Good God!
1.14.2007 2:52am
andy (mail) (www):
i thought if "f*ck" was not used to refer to sexual activity, then it was not "obscene."
1.14.2007 3:04am
Tek Jansen:
Oren: it wasn't just a shirt on a fan in the background that could barely be seen, or was accidentally in a shot. They zoomed in on two fans, and the woman was wearing this shirt. It was as obvious as it gets, and they left the camera on her for several seconds.
1.14.2007 3:15am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Could Janet Jackson legally wear her costume (with exposed nipple) on the street?

Would a "Fuck da Eagles" T-shirt be legal to wear on the street? (With enough other clothing to conceal one's naughty bits, of course!)
1.14.2007 3:40am
Roger Schlafly (www):
Yes, a live lewd performance showing a man grabbing a women's naked breast is more indecent than a vulgar word on a fan's t-shirt.
1.14.2007 3:51am
markm (mail):
Not to mention much more disgusting, considering that Jackson is old enough to be Timberlake's mother...
1.14.2007 6:29am
Fub:
Mark H.wrote:
I would think there's a substantial difference between a featured, paid, half-time entertainment act and a fan in the stands. Yes?
No time to look up and reference the relevant NAL or FO right now, but from my recollection, there is no difference between a paid act and a fan in the stands for FCC purposes. In the past they have been quite clear that inadvertance is not a defense. And anything previously recorded and rebroadcast is definitely not inadvertant by FCC reasoning.

Indecency NALs are driven entirely by complaints. The FCC, as well as various advocacy and political groups, make it very easy to file a complaint. The FCC requests, but does not require, a recording of the program. They do not legally need a recording in order to act upon and enforce a complaint.

Sometimes the FCC does order a complaint dismissed, or sometimes they just don't bother to act on a complaint.

The entire process is driven by political expediency and pressure, just like all other sumptuary laws have been enforced historically.
1.14.2007 7:33am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Hey Roger, Timberlake didn't grab Jackson's "naked breast," he ripped off part of her costume. Here's the clip.
1.14.2007 7:55am
fishbane (mail):
As such, it has no referent.

Does no one have time for "plain meaning" anymore?

Put differently, if I said "f*ck you" to you, would you assume the verb had no referent? (Please note: I'm not actually cursing at anyone.)
1.14.2007 8:23am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
actually, I think 'fuck' is a verb there, subjunctive mood- either an indirect command, or a wish/desire.

No, that's why you need linguists. It doesn't do the things that imperatives do. Consider embedding in other contexts. (*) means doesn't work :

I said to close the door.
(*)I said to fuck the Eagles.
Don't close the door.
(*)Don't fuck the Eagles.
Please close the door.
(*)Please fuck the Eagles.
Close the door, won't you?
(*)Fuck the Eagles, won't you?
Go close the door.
(*)Go fuck the Eagles.
Close the door or I'll stop your allowance.
(*)Fuck the Eagles or I'll stop your allowance.
Close the door and I'll give you a dollar.
(*)Fuck the Eagles and I'll give you a dollar.
Close the door and wash the dishes.
(*)Fuck the Eagles and wash the dishes.

It has, in short, no internal hooks that other grammatical structures can use, unless you mentally let the ``fuck'' revert to another meaning that it fails to have in the epithet.

Which proves it doesn't have that meaning in the epithet.
1.14.2007 8:28am
AlanP (mail):
First The shot was of just two people, not the whole crowd and the shirt was visable for a few seconds

Second, there is a broadcast delay of several seconds which is a marked annoyance when I get sick of the broadcasters and try to listen on radio while watching the game. They also have a delay but they are usually two to three seconds ahead of the picture

Lastly, as to whehter this shirt referred to a sexual act, while in college, an elderly and very prim appearing professor of Political Science and Constitutional Law walked into class and said she just saw a sign that said

Fuck the University

She said she was appalled as it would obviously be impossible for this one person to fuck the entire University
1.14.2007 9:27am
Randy R. (mail):
"Not to mention much more disgusting, considering that Jackson is old enough to be Timberlake's mother..."

Yes, so disgusting that more people googled that clip than googled the twin towers falling. I guess everyone just had to see it for themselves....
1.14.2007 10:23am
Shangui (mail):
Yes, a live lewd performance showing a man grabbing a women's naked breast is more indecent than a vulgar word on a fan's t-shirt.

1. He didn't grap her breast.
2. Only a small part of her nipple was visible; it wasn't a "naked breast."
3. You couldn't even really see it unless you watched the slo-mo replay on your Tivo or online, as millions did.
1.14.2007 10:43am
CEB:
Yes, a live lewd performance showing a man grabbing a women's naked breast

LOL I was watching that halftime show on a decent-sized TV and didn't even notice what happened. I guess I wasn't paying as close attention as Mr. Schlafly.
1.14.2007 11:11am
curious:
Here is the video in question in super slo-mo.
1.14.2007 12:01pm
Steve:
When I was a young, impressionable college student, t-shirts reading "Fuck Michigan" were selling like hotcakes prior to the Michigan-Michigan State game. My understanding was that so many people wore them that ABC had to resort to nothing but wide-angle shots of the crowd for the entire game.

If the young lady in question had a t-shirt reading "Fuck the Draft," I wonder if Fox might have a First Amendment argument? And why should the draft, which has as its aim the defense of our nation, enjoy less protection from criticism than a perennially choking team like the Eagles?
1.14.2007 12:18pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Given the size (or lack thereof) of the half-t-shirt the young woman was wearing, I was worried (ok, not so much worried as hopeful) that we were about to have another Janet Jackson moment...

As for community standards, if we go by New Orleans standards, the shirt is not only well within those standards, it captured perfectly the spirits of just about every New Orleanian yesterday.
1.14.2007 12:32pm
A.G. (mail):
Name the time and place, hottie

-- The Eagles
1.14.2007 12:43pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
``Fuck'' is not a verb, in the phrase ``Fuck the Eagles.''
It is, rather, grammatically speaking, in its entirety, an epithet.


Indeed, it can hardly be seen as an imperatve -- she was not hoping/commanding that the Eagles be given sexual benefits, I assume (there is a small possibility that she was an Eagles fan and exhorting her fellow fans to provide them comfort and incentive, but I doubt it).

As I recall from speech therapy classes decades ago -- a human can lose the ability to speak in a condition known as aphasia, often caused by a stroke. They can still move their mouth, etc., but memory of what words mean is lost, and they have to relearn language again, first to speak and then to read.

In many cases it is a partial loss, and in many some part of language memory returns as the brain heals and re-wires. In the latter case the first memories to return are profanity. The theory is that it is not symbolic, not "a set of sounds means an object." Instead, like "ouch," "oof," or laughter, it is simply a sound that reflects a state of mind, presumably hard-wired at a simpler and deeper level.

The Prof. told of seeing an old man in a wheelchair struggling with his first word, repeatedly crying out "shit!" as the nurses cheered and encouraged him.
1.14.2007 1:08pm
Fub:
As amusing as the technical linguistic discussions of referent free verbs may be here, anyone who really believes that the FCC cannot, or will not prosecute an indecency complaint over a T-shirt in a crowd image, should take communication attorney John Crigler's "Test Your Indecency Knowledge" quiz.
1.14.2007 1:26pm
Kovarsky (mail):
i think it's funny that fox would get fined for the shirt but nobody wants to talk about the fact that fox's tendency to close-up hot well-endowed women is OUT OF CONTROL.
1.14.2007 1:38pm
CEB:
If anyone's interested, Here's the clip.

Kovarsky,
That's nothing compared to the new three-chairs-in-front-of-a-low-table format of their "news" shows, obviously meant to provide viewers with the maximum number of crotch-shots of the female hosts and guests.
1.14.2007 1:55pm
s806:
The intial spotting of that young lady probably had everything to do with the fact that she was blonde, wearing half a shirt, and jumping up and down. Which is a popular past time for sports camera men and men watching the games to begin with.

I would be interested to see the clip without slow motion.
1.14.2007 5:46pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
In defense of the cameraman, when the shirt initially appears, the first letter is obscured, and the shirt could legitimately be assumed to say "pluck da Eagles", conveying the message in rhyme, without being the bad word itself. In non-slo-mo, the shirt was only on for a very short time, perhaps just long enough for the "f" to reveal itself.
1.14.2007 6:31pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Jonathan,

I've correct the post ("da" instead of "the").

Best correction I've seen since an early-18th-c. Handel sonata print that boasted it was "more Corect" than the old edition.
1.14.2007 6:54pm
Freddy Hill (mail):
In re the grammatical discussion, I think that "F*ck da Eagles" is a clear appeal to bestiality. More the reason to fine Fox!
1.14.2007 8:18pm
neurodoc:
Dave Hardy, There are different types of aphasia(e.g., expressive vs receptive vs conduction aphasias) depending on what parts of the brain are affected. I don't think there is much linguistic insight to be gained about expletives like "fuck" from those with damaged brains that can produce that and little more. (BTW, people with Tourette's Syndrome have motor and verbal tics, the latter taking the form in some of "coprolalia," with uncontrollable, embarassing, sudden utterances of words like "fuck".)
1.14.2007 8:26pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
In re the grammatical discussion, I think that "F*ck da Eagles" is a clear appeal to bestiality.

As the Bald Eagle Artificial Insemination Team's resident Emergency Medical Tech, I hope not. I'm tired of climbing mountains with a backpack full of blood, bandages, and splints.
1.14.2007 8:29pm
Henry Schaffer (mail):
Today I saw a woman wearing a short sleeved shirt with "lucky fcuk" [sic] across the chest. Apparently this is a brand or something.
1.14.2007 9:02pm
Guest12345:
Today I saw a woman wearing a short sleeved shirt with "lucky fcuk" [sic] across the chest. Apparently this is a brand or something.


Not that anybody cares, but FCUK.

And I'm predicting a Playboy appearance for the lass in the clip.
1.14.2007 10:08pm
Nate F (mail):
I used to have a "lucky fcuk" shirt, actually. Also, I attend Maryland, where there are massive numbers of shirts that make that one look tame. Particularly those pertaining to Duke.
1.14.2007 10:22pm
Can't find a good name:
Based on my understanding of the FCC's recent decisions, they might indeed try to fine the Fox affiliates for showing this fan. Televised football games have directors to decide which camera's angle to broadcast at any given time. Clearly a camera person picked this fan out of the stands due to her distinctive appearance (platinum blonde hair, painted face, cropped shirt) and so should have been able to notice that she had the word "FUCK" printed on the shirt. And if the director sees that one of the cameras is pointed at a person with the word "FUCK" on her t-shirt, it's the director's responsibility to cut to some other camera as soon as he sees that.

This is not to say that I believe that the words "FUCK DA EAGLES" on a t-shirt are the worst thing in the world, but the FCC certainly would not approve and it would have been in Fox's interest to keep that fan's shirt off camera.

This reminds me of what Mae West said: "I'm the lady who works at Paramount all day and Fox all night."
1.14.2007 10:29pm
neurodoc:
Nate F:
1.15.2007 12:01am
neurodoc:
Nate F: I used to have a "lucky fcuk" shirt, actually. Also, I attend Maryland, where there are massive numbers of shirts that make that one look tame. Particularly those pertaining to Duke

Right, and the University of Maryland is so greatly embarrassed for the vulgar chanting by its fans when Duke plays in Cole field house that UofMD's basketball coach has had to apologize for it and the school has contemplated ejecting the most offensive from the premises. No serious "free speech" issues in this any more than there are in the offensive racist and anti-semitic taunting of opponents by certain European soccer teams' fans.

I trust you are not proud of this. As one who always roots for the Terps over the Blue Devils, I certainly am not.
1.15.2007 12:09am
Hattio (mail):
Nate F, and Neurodoc.
I don't know if you should be ashamed of the chants and other antics of the Maryland fans, but shouldn't you be ashamed of being a Maryland fan in the first place?

Go Duke
1.15.2007 12:40am
Waldensian (mail):

I used to have a "lucky fcuk" shirt, actually. Also, I attend Maryland,

That second bit of info was, um, not surprising.
1.15.2007 12:48am
John Herbison (mail):
Perhaps the woman was offering to copulate with Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy Schmit.
1.15.2007 1:22am
Freddy Hill (mail):
Dave Hardy:


As the Bald Eagle Artificial Insemination Team's resident Emergency Medical Tech, I hope not. I'm tired of climbing mountains with a backpack full of blood, bandages, and splints.


Are you kidding me? If not, how do you get a job like that? And why?
1.15.2007 4:09am
Nate F (mail):

That second bit of info was, um, not surprising.


Have you actually seen those shirts? They reason I stopped wearing French Connection clothing is exactly the opposite of the one you're thinking -- they are cut... uh... well, "metrosexual" would be a generous choice of wording.

And I can't say I'm proud of some of the absolute extremes of our fan behavior (nor do I think my comment implied that?), but the media and the school have also overreacted somewhat, especially vis-a-vis the so-called "rioting." There hasn't been a real riot here since the NCAA tournament win, which was before my time, but the administration wants to label any large outdoor fan celebration a "riot."
1.15.2007 4:27pm
Dave N (mail):
There actually is a store here whose official name is "French Connection United Kingdom" or some such--of coure, it uses its initials--mainly for shock value, I suppose.

Truly amazing that someone is making a living on junior high level humor.
1.15.2007 8:16pm
Jonesy:
I dont know if theyll fine or not (they shouldnt imo), but my guess is the cameraman and the director werent able to make out the words on the girls shirt fast enough to cut from the shot (they may have not known till minutes later). They probably didnt pay much attention to the shirt and was more interested in showing an attractive young girl cheering in a half shirt (they were showing cheerleaders mroe than usual that game, imo).

FYI though, that is fineable under the new FCC rules. A 'fleeting expletive' that wasnt even planned by the network is prohibited, and Id say thats essentially what this was. It was like Nicole Richie saying "fuck" live at the Golden Globes one year, which is one of the reasons the Networks took the FCC to court.
1.16.2007 1:34am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
``Fuck'' is not a verb, in the phrase ``Fuck the Eagles.''
It is, rather, grammatically speaking, in its entirety, an epithet.


I can buy that in the phrase "Bucky Fucking Dent" but not here.

(*) means doesn't work :

I said to close the door.
(*)I said to fuck the Eagles.


Why doesn't it work?

Does "Kill the Eagles" work? "Beat the Eagles"? "Humiliate the Eagles"?

"Fuck you" is incorrect -- the reflexive "Fuck yourself" ought to be used, or the passive "Get bent". (In Amish that's rendered "Fornicate thyself".)

And don't forget the blonde newlywed who one December invites the mail carrier into her home, takes him up to the bedroom, and gives him the screwing of his lifetime. Then as he's leaving she says "Wait!" and gives him a dollar. He says "What's that for?" and she says "That's what my husband said to do. He said to leave five dollars for the paperboy, and when I said 'What about the mailman?' he said 'Fuck him, give him a dollar.'"
1.16.2007 3:32pm
jallgor (mail):
``Fuck'' is not a verb, in the phrase ``Fuck the Eagles.''
It is, rather, grammatically speaking, in its entirety, an epithet.

In this instance, it could also be read as a verb in the sense that "to fuck someone" can mean to deny them of something they perhaps deserve. For example, "the refs fucked the eagles on that play" is not an epithet and is not a reference to fornication.
1.17.2007 12:05pm