Monday, May 30, 2022
As reported here in The New York Times, a number of musicians who were slated to perform at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention this weekend in Houston have pulled out. The musicians include Don McLean (pictured. in 1976), best known for the iconic songs, "American Pie" and "Vincent," both from the early 1970s; Larry Gatlin, known, according to his Wikipedia entry, for country songs written in the 1970s and 80s; and Larry Stewart, who (also according to Wikipedia) had 18 top 40 hits with Restless Heart in the 80s and 90s. Lee Greenwood (the singer-songwriter of “God Bless the U.S.A.”, also known as “Proud to Be an American”) and T. Graham Brown also cancelled appearances.
According to the CMT website, Mr. McLean issued the following statement:
[I]n light of the recent events in Texas, I have decided it would be disrespectful and hurtful for me to perform for the NRA at their convention in Houston this week.
Mr. Gatlin explained his decision to pull out as follows:
I cannot, in good conscience, perform at the NRA convention in Houston this weekend. While I agree with most of the positions held by the NRA, I have come to believe that, while background checks would not stop every madman with a gun, it is at the very least a step in the right direction toward trying to prevent the kind of tragedy we saw this week in Uvalde — in my beloved, weeping TEXAS.
Mr. Stewart posted the following on Facebook:
Due to the tragedy in Uvalde with the horrific school shooting and children who died, I want to honor the victims, families, the town and our friends in the great state of Texas the best I know how. So I have made the decision to pull out as a performer for the NRA convention this weekend, especially given the event is just down the road. I just believe this is best for me at this time. God Bless everyone involved!
Here on the ContractsProf Blog, our question is, what are the contractual consequences of doing so? We have not seen the contracts, but it seems unlikely that the musicians had clauses allowing them to pull out in case of mass shootings on the eve of the convention. Given that there have already been 27 school shootings and over 200 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, the event was hardly unforeseeable. Nor did the Uvalde massacre render the musicians' performance commercially impracticable.
However, it seems unlikely that the NRA would want to risk negative publicity and harm relationships that likely will soon return to normal by going after musicians for breach of contract. Presumably the musicians will not be paid, and so, absent some argument that people flocked to Houston to hear performances by people they remember from their childhood rather than for the main attraction of an NRA convention, the damages from the breaches would likely be limited to inconsequential costs and unrecoverable deposits and the like. Can the NRA book alternative acts on short notice? Are other contracts affected (promoters, sound technicians, roadies, etc.)? All interesting matters. All likely to resolved through quiet negotiation and private settlement.
Of course, there is another option available to the NRA. They could take a page out of David Kopel's book, as set out in this post over at the Volokh Conspiracy. According to Kopel, those who link the NRA to mass shootings are hate groups carrying out a blood libel. He denounced the "cowardly politicians" who canceled their appearances at the NRA convention held in Denver shortly after the Colombine shootings. He concludes:
We say to each and every hate group, we reject your sick and twisted lies against us, for exactly the same reason we reject the blood libels against every race, every religion, and every other group: We reject Satan and all his works.
That sounds like a great conclusion to the NRA's opening brief in its case against the Satanic musicians. And why not throw in suits against the cowardly politicians who once again pulled out from the convention this year? Likely there are no damages when politicians fail to show up, but you can certainly hit them in the solar plexus of endorsements and campaign fund by alleging in court documents that they have abandoned the NRA in favor of Satan.
Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Kristi Noem need not worry. They will not be sued. They showed up. As described here (with video), Mr. Trump enacted a scene from The Hunger Games, reading out the names of the dead as a bell tolled for each murdered child. One hopes that the allusion was inadvertent, but given Mr. Trump's adoration of Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban, and his love affair with Kim Jong Un, who knows?
Hat tip: Peter Gulia.