Reginald D Hunter and verbal contracts

Reginald D Hunter, the American stand-up comedian, spoke at the UK Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) awards dinner the other night.

It didn’t go down too well with certain people unfortunately. Hunter, who is black, made various jokes that covered racial issues. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of the sensitivities in  football right now, ranging from individual players who have been accused of racist comments, to endemic problems in some countries with supporters racist chanting or worse.

So a bit of a furore has blown up. But our interest was sparked when the PFA announced that they were trying to recover the money they paid Hunter. So now we’re into a procurement issue!

Here’s the Telegraph:

PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes confirmed lawyers for the organisation had contacted the London Speaker Bureau, through which Hunter was booked. Barnes told Telegraph Sport: “We are in discussions with our lawyer and our lawyer is in discussion with the London Speaker Bureau, who we booked him through.”

Hunter is being pursued for what effectively amounts to a breach of a verbal contract over a performance that saw the black American comedian from Georgia repeatedly use the word “’n*****” and make potentially-offensive jokes about Jews and women.

The PFA claim that he was briefed and was told it was a mixed audience (sex, age and race) and that he should therefore avoid bad language.  But of course this may come back to the old saying – “a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on”.  It is usually very hard to prove exactly what was said to whom, how and when, if a legal challenge is relying on purely verbal evidence  or indeed a purely verbal contract.

However, it may well be that Hunter and the Speaker Bureau decide that it’s worth returning  the fee for the sake of some goodwill. After all, I’m sure Hunter has had publicity over the last few days worth far, far more than his fee for this gig. We might see the discussion drag on for a little longer (and a good number of additional newspaper articles), then I predict it will all be settled.

But of course our procurement advice is simple and clear – get it in writing. If you’re engaging someone to do anything for you, get written agreement of whatever the key points are, whether it is delivery dates, required inputs or outputs, quality levels, or indeed that you don’t expect your supplier to go around f***** swearing.

Voices (4)

  1. Richard Anstis:

    I guess I may see more standup than many, as it is definitely ‘my thing’ (e.g. saw the recording of the QI Christmas Special 2013 recording last night – errr … in May!) but could anyone tasked with booking an after-dinner speaker actually NOT have known what Reg’s standup act is like? Would you employ, let’s say, Graham Norton, and then say ‘sorry, no gay gags, Graham?’ Or employ Jo Brand and then say ‘Oh, lay off the feminism schtick, will you, Jo?’ There are some very interesting discussions to be had about what ‘counts’ as ‘racist’ language in: a. everyday private life b. football c. comedy and d. broadcasts; but the coverage of this story that I’ve seen so far has sidestepped that deeper debate entirely. But I enjoyed the contractual issue now raised – I hope it goes to Court!

  2. Alastair:

    Is there an implied contract between football supporter and player. If so can i get my money back when the player does not follow the rules, swears, is racist and generally doesn’t play well thereby reducing the enjoyment of the supporter.

    1. Guy Allen:

      Oh I so wish that was true. One Marcella Trotta would owe Brentford a lot of money right now, having missed a 94th minute penalty that would have taken us to the Championship. But no amount of money would make up for the broken heart.

  3. PlanBee:

    I went to a stand up comedian show in Philadelphia at the Marriot Hotel. The comedians were black (is that Racist?) and so was most of the audience. I have to say I felt very uncomfortable, the delivery would definitely have been seen as racist here, lots of reference to honky’s and mother F£$%rs, despite the relatively upmarket location.

    I left at the interval. It taught me two lessons

    1) How uncomfortable it must be for minorities to be subject to racial abuse, even the most casual and non threatening type. Being a white male Caucasian this was a new expereince to me

    2) Double standards are rife in the US and the UK

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