Nick, Their Ball, Their Bat, Their Rules

So, Nick Cannon got fired from his long-running comedy improv show Wild ‘N Out. He said some things viewed as anti-Semitic on a recent episode of his podcast and YouTube show Cannon’s Class. He denies it, of course, and despite a lengthy social media apology to the Jewish community and a fervent pledge to educate himself, etc., he’s still fired.

Listen, what I know about the Black Israelites could fit on the head of a pin. So, I actually don’t have an opinion on whether or not Cannon was offensive. I couldn’t even find the recording to listen to the podcast because YouTube already yanked it as hate speech. I came across one CNN article that had snippets, and they didn’t seem that bad. But without context, they’re just snippets.

That’s not the point anyway. You can say whatever you want. This is America. But at the end of the day, the lesson is this: When you’re on someone else’s dime, you are subject to the rules and regulations that they create — their operations, their operations manual. So, if you’re collecting a check, you make controversial remarks — whether they’re true, they’re your beliefs or whatever — and you are subsequently told, oh, yeah? No more checks for you. That’s the game. That’s how things work. That’s not new.

That’s why ownership and control over your creative product is so important. It doesn’t matter if your star power, your moxie, your personality, your skill, turned what someone else gave you into something big. If you started out on their dime, if you signed a binding contract, it’s still theirs.

It’s like radio personality Charlemagne the God said: “Listen, Nick is my guy. I hate it had to be him, but that’s what you can do when you have the power…” during Wednesday’s broadcast of the radio show The Breakfast Club. “I can’t wait until the day black people are able to fire people for saying things about us that we deem racist. We can barely get cops fired for actually killing us!”

Again, their ball, their bat, their rules. Period.

Whether or not Cannon was intentionally offensive, he knew he was courting controversy. His podcast guest, Richard Griffin, also known as Professor Griff, was “fired” from his job as a member of rap group Public Enemy in 1989 for pretty much the same thing. Kicked out of Public Enemy. You have to know their lyrics to see the irony there.

Anyway, now Cannon wants ownership over Wild ‘N Out. I doubt that’s gonna happen. Even if ViacomCBS was interested in selling it, I imagine the powers that be would deny him on principle. Sure he can sue, but it makes a lot more sense to think about control and ownership and that sort of thing before the metaphoric fat hits the fire, right? Once you’re on the outside looking in, your leverage is gone.

It’s unfortunate. Cannon spent a decade building something, and now it’s over. But we’re in a weird time now. For a long time, social media had people feeling like they could say whatever they wanted to. And beyond the dubious, shadow power social media gives the silly and unaware, certain privileged people still feel they are above the need for self-censorship completely. These platforms, however, are slamming on the brakes, and the court of public opinion is firmly in session. I’m not sure everyone’s gotten the memo though.

There are a lot of people who still feel they can say whatever they want. Of course, there’s levels to it, right? Sometimes people are punished, fired, canceled, whatever. Sometimes they’re not. That often depends on their level of control over whatever the controversy is, i.e. good luck canceling ViacomCBS. Nick Cannon, on the other hand, bye bye. Profitable, successful, decades long working relationship or not, you’re out.

This is not rocket science. You can say controversial things. You can behave any way you like. But we live in the Internet era. Everyone who has a phone has a camera — video and audio. You may be recorded at your best, but you will almost certainly be recorded at your worst, and the footage will immediately be shared with the world — and judged, harshly. In this case, Cannon recorded himself and released the media. So, it is what it is.

If you don’t want to be punished for your beliefs or opinions, etc., be quiet. But personally I hope that everyone continues to be mind-blowingly honest. It’s far better to know where you stand with people, I think.

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