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Motley Crue Sue NBC

Veteran rockers shout First Amendment at the devil

May 25, 2005 12:00 AM ET

Motley Crue filed a lawsuit against NBC Tuesday in Los Angeles, alleging that the network violated their right to free speech by banning the band after singer Vince Neil said "fuck" on a live New Year's Eve broadcast of The Tonight Show.

"This ban constitutes governmentally pressured censorship and violates the law the same as if the government itself had ordered the censorship," states the suit, which frames the ban as an appeal to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has been pushing for swifter and steeper indecency fines since Janet Jackson's breast was revealed during her performance at CBS' 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

In addition, the veteran rockers claim that the ban has hampered their ability to promote their recent best-of compilation, Red, White & Crue, and ongoing reunion tour. Motley Crue claim that, after their New Year's Tonight Show performance -- in which Neil called out to drummer Tommy Lee, "Happy fucking New Year!" -- a scheduled appearance on NBC's Last Call With Carson Daly was cancelled, and the band was barred from Late Night With Conan O'Brien.

Motley Crue are demanding a federal court ruling that the ban is unconstitutional, a court order to lift the ban and financial damages to compensate for their alleged losses in potential revenue.

"It feels that we're being singled out unfairly," bassist Nikki Sixx told the New York Times. "This is a discrimination issue, pure and simple."

Motley Crue's lawyer, Skip Miller, questions why other artists have not been penalized for recent on-air profanity. U2 frontman Bono used the phrase "fucking brilliant" upon receiving a 2003 Golden Globe for the band's contribution to the film Gangs of New York, but went unfined. At the time, NBC even went to bat for the outspoken singer, claiming that "isolated and fleeting" utterances of profanities had been overlooked for years in live broadcasts.

Yesterday, NBC responded to the suit, "To ensure compliance with its broadcast standards, NBC has the right to decide not to invite back guests who violate those standards and use an expletive during a live entertainment program. The lawsuit Motley Crue has filed against us is meritless."

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

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