The Brady Bunch: Tom Brady Accused Of FCC Violation For Silent F-Bombs

240px-Tom_Brady_2011fcc-seal_rgb-largeMany of us watching the Patriots-Packers game so Tom Brady throwing a fit on the sideline after a bad play. He clearly was saying “f–k” over and over again but there was no audio. Those silent F-bombs however are now the basis for a series of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission from people who said that they, even if they could not hear what he said, they knew what he said and were left shocked and angry. It creates an interesting basis for a FCC: the silent F-Bomb. It is almost a Zen-like Administrative Law question: Little Grasshopper, if a silent F-bomb explodes on a sidelines and no one is around to hear it, did it make a legal sound?

Brady, 37, is the subject of three indecency complaints, including one from an Indianapolis parent wrote that their “6 year old children know how to read lips even if there is no sound.” Another complaint from a Pennsylvania grandparent reported that, “My 8 year old grandson was watching the game with me and even commented that he should not have said that.” That grandparent objected that the network kept the camera on Brady when he was swearing. Frankly, I do not believe that this was a good thing for a NFL QB to be doing. However, he was not swearing at someone else or into a camera. He was showing emotion at a point of the game where he thought it was slipping away (he was right). As someone with a team with a QB with the passionate expression of a mortician, it was a change.

The FCC states the standard for obscenity on its website:

Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be broadcast at any time. The Supreme Court has established that, to be obscene, material must meet a three-pronged test:

An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and

The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

I am not sure that an average person would find that this appeals to the prurient interest. It is interesting that the list of value does not include social value. For sports fans, the scene probably did have value in understanding Brady’s feelings at a critical point of a major game.

There is also the indecency standard:

The FCC has defined broadcast indecency as

“language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.” Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the level of obscenity.

Mouthing words does not really “depict” sexual activities in my view.

However, the FCC stresses the following: “The FCC staff must analyze what was actually aired, the meaning of what was aired and the context in which it was aired.”

I do think silent F-bombs meet that standard, but what do you think?

By the way, I truly hate the FCC seal which is not only strikingly unattractive but looks like the American Eagle is just another bird being electrocuted by high-power wires. Now that is indecent.


Source: Smoking Gun

46 thoughts on “The Brady Bunch: Tom Brady Accused Of FCC Violation For Silent F-Bombs”

  1. “who ever miscounts take a shot.”

    Of course by shot I meant a small glass of alcohol – not the other kind.

  2. Are any of you watching shows other than sports? The language allowed sit-com is terrible.meven “bleeping” doesn’t really help because certain words are easy to lip read.

    We watch Graham Norton on BBC Saturday nights, it’s very funny. But no “bleeps” at all.

    Did anyone notice in Ferguson most people couldn’t complete a sentence without the various ways the word is used. ____in’, ____ed, I can’t even remember them all. We started counting them and got into the 40’s and it wasn’t fun anymore.

    1. ” We started counting them and got into the 40’s and it wasn’t fun anymore.”

      It is more fun if you make who ever miscounts take a shot.

  3. slohrss29 said…

    We don’t need a ton of people on the government payroll making up problems to get paid to fix.

    True words. You may, innocently, not even know how true they are in the federal bureaucracy. Every time a “re-organization” (think DHS among many others less obvious) occurs the federal beast grows without purpose. More chiefs, fewer Indians….to use a worn out cliché’. No worries, the new guys on the block will think of some “problems” to cure. It’s a lock, bet on it.

    Dang it, I hate being this cynical….but can’t help it. I did my time in the belly of the beast. That said, even now as a mere occasional consultant, I will notice real change when it occurs…if I live that long 😉

  4. AND I’d bet money that if I had actually typed the “f-word” above many of you would be offended; some would remind me of the blog decorum rules; a few would ask that I be kicked out. Hypocrites.

    1. Steve, thanks for the comments…that’s the point I was trying to make…I’m not naive, and yes, I’ve used the word, but never in front of my kids. It boils my butt that people think it’s ok for kids to hear at a young age. C’mon, athletes, try to set a good example. Our kids have long enough to grow up and hear that crap.

    2. Steve H – some people deserve to be offended. Both Shakespeare and Ben Jonson use the word. It is a good Anglo-Saxon word that probably means ‘to beat.’ Personally, I would not be offended by the use of the word. I am not a special snowflake.

  5. For all those who think that it’s OK that kids hear the f-word when they are young since they’ll hear it anyhow later: Wait until your kid tells her teacher to “f yourself”, your spouse to “f yourself”, and you to “f yourself”. You’ll be outraged. And to blame.

    1. Steve H – wait until you are the teacher and some kid tells you to f**k off. Actually, some days that can be the least of your problems. 🙂

  6. Playing victim has become the new American pastime. It’s particularly popular here.

  7. @ Dennis

    I was teasing you. I had thought that we were doing a pretty good job at keeping the blue language down from ourselves and our friends. I realized how much more serious we had to be and vigilant about not swearing (and other things) around my daughter when she was playing with some toys in her room at about 2 1/2 (an early and prolific speaker as a child) and some toys fell down. In her little toddler voice we heard. “Damn it! ”

    Ooops. I guess we weren’t doing a good enough job. It was funny, but embarrassing.

    You can’t protect your children completely from everything. Such as seeing football players dropping the F bomb. I guess the best you can do is discuss why people say such things and why it is not appropriate. Also impress on your children how people will view them badly IF they do use that kind of language.

    1. Dust Bunny Queen, thanks, I thought as much! I just long for the days when athletes were role models (I think Brady is, but this wasn’t the first time I saw that). Kids look up to him…if my son sees him saying that on TV, it sends a bad message. Darren is right, you can’t regulate it from the TV standpoint, but the NFL and other leagues should at least try to enforce it. It’s gotten out of hand, and I just don’t accept that people can’t control themselves.
      @dennismartinek #SNHUSMM

  8. I don’t believe the complainant’s stories as their vulnerable children being harmed, I’ll bet it was more like someone trying to take down the player from the opposition and crafted this “victim”.

    I cannot see a practical way of addressing this. The broadcasters cannot be expected to hire lip readers and censor it in real time. Not all words appear exactly the same from a lip reading point of view and context is often the cue as to how the word is interpreted.

  9. Brady was cursing because there was a video of Eli Manning on the Jumbotron.

    Brady is afraid of Eli because he always kicks his ass. Just sayn’

  10. dennis, I applaud you. But, as his father, you are the biggest influence @ that age. Unfortunately, in 2-3 years, peers become more influential than parents. But, that solid base you have given him will always be there. We found permissive parents, the type that wanted to be “friends” w/ their kids, were one of our biggest problems, particularly in high school.

  11. I agree, I am already too late, but, having said that, I don’t need to encourage it at that age. I can only protect him so long, but in our house, I should be able to control it. If he was watching a cable station where you can say what you want, I can limit that. My concern is on what should be a channel showing a sporting event. It isn’t something I want to reinforce…I know it’s old-fashioned of me, but I want to show him his parents don’t approve of it, so hopefully as he grows up, he doesn’t acquire a gutter mouth for everything.

    I know you were just teasing me, so I’m not mad about your comment–it’s just sad that at eleven, he can lip read that…

    1. dennisjmartinek – he could probably lip read it at 7 but you didn’t notice. 😉

  12. What a Frightening image. A coach using profanity — who knew! Keep it from the kids.

  13. and there are some old fashioned parents like myself that would like to keep him from hearing that–until such time that he’s a teenager and learns it from the gutter like I did!

    Sounds like you are already too late, since you son can lip read the F bomb.


  14. dennis, My expert opinion is Brady was very aware of the camera. I am sympathetic, but I think you are giving your heroic QB a pass. And dennis, I am also sympathetic about having our kids exposed. My much bigger beef was the inability to take my kids when they were young to baseball/football games w/o having to hear profanity from drunken buffoons. There are some venues where it is worse. Having grown up in the northeast, you live in the WORST area for that. St. Louis, KC, Minneapolis are a few of the better venues.

  15. As a Patriots fan, who was sitting with my eleven year-old son, we both saw it, and he looked at me like “dad, did you see what he said?”. I don’t think Brady meant it to be broadcast, and I’m no prude, but I do think that players need to be cognizant that kids are watching, and there are some old fashioned parents like myself that would like to keep him from hearing that–until such time that he’s a teenager and learns it from the gutter like I did!

    1. dennisjmartinek – I remember an old Bill Cosby routine where he was going on about his football team being on TV for the first time and being warned not to grab their crotches. 🙂
      BTW, you have a sheltered upbringing if you were a teen when you learned it. 😉

  16. hinkydinkkenna, My first thoughts too.

    So did Seinfeld get in big trouble for their famous f-bomb episode? It would seem that this would be more severe since it was in script thus intentional. It was bleeped out bu obvious what he was saying. I guess I don’t understand the difference.

  17. “The seal is a great example of art deco style.”

    In your imagination – maybe.

    It seems the current seal dates from about 2011 and contains an error:

    “Ericksen says that the curtain antennas have three horizontal connecting lines with a power feed line that is shown coming up from the ground and branching out in three connections. One single connection should go to each individual horizontal line, he says. This is how the original FCC seal looked. However, the recent update shows two feed lines connecting to a single horizontal line and incorrectly wired, the results of which would cause a failure in the line. “It could burn through the feed line…you could get smoke or fire,” Ericksen told The Daily Caller.”

    If that little cramped up bit of clip art of an eagle is anything like art deco then my lunch time napkin is found art Picasso.

    They ought to charge the artist with cruelty to eagles. My guess is the only plausible defense would be impaired artistic vision.

  18. Of course he could claim it was a wardrobe malfunction. He forgot to wear his facemask. 🙂

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