Sharp-eyed reader DRJ found this link suggesting that Phil Robertson’s suspension may be authorized by a “morals clause” in his contract:
TheWrap spoke to multiple legal experts who said that, if Robertson’s contract contained a morals clause — as if often the case with on-air talent — than the reality TV star has little in the way of legal recourse.
Often, such morals clauses note that, if talents speaks or acts in a way that insults or denigrates people, the producer reserves the right to suspend or terminate that talent.
And typically, defining such language or actions is left to the discretion of the studio — basically, “if we say it is so, it is.” Tough to mount a legal argument against that.
“My guess is that they [suspended Robertson] on the basis of a morality clause,” one entertainment attorney told TheWrap on Wednesday. “Once you sign a reality show contract, they own you.”
Entertainment attorney Neville Johnson also noted that talent agreements generally tend to favor the networks. “If you see these talent agreements, they basically say they can do everything except torture you,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, TMZ has unearthed this 2010 video of Robertson saying essentially the same sorts of things about the alleged immorality of homosexuality.
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TMZ takes the position that A&E had to know about this before the series started. Maybe, and then again, maybe not. They can still do pretty much whatever they want to do. It will be interesting to see what effect it all has on their bottom line.
Finally, DRJ notes that Robertson has been saying for some time he is tired of doing the show. It could be that the family decides to go on, because he wanted out anyway, and/or because they have little legal recourse. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.