Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Are the Rockettes Being Forced to Dance at Trump Inauguration?

Article Placeholder Image
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 27, 2016 11:05 AM

America's first celebrity president is having a bit of trouble finding celebrities to perform at his inauguration. While the list of confirmed performers sits at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and 16-year-old former America's Got Talent singer named Jackie Evancho, the list of those who've declined Donald Trump's invitations includes varied luminaries from Elton John to Garth Brooks and Andrea Bocelli to Kiss.

One group of performers' famous legs were straddling the fence on whether to perform for the infamous President-elect: initial reports said the Radio City Rockettes were being forced by their employer to dance at the inauguration, but it now looks like participation at the event will be voluntary. So how many will show?

Kicking and Screaming

The controversy started when Madison Square Garden Co. announced last week that the Rockettes would be part of the inauguration. After some dancers voiced their displeasure on social media, concern arose that the performance was mandatory. There was the requisite internet outrage and even talk of a boycott before MSG released a statement clarifying their position:

"For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural. It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available."

A Legal Leg to Stand On

While private employers can generally restrict political speech at work, and can tell some of their employees whom to vote for, compulsory political speech remains frowned upon. Which is probably why the Rockettes' inauguration performance raised red flags for their union, the American Guild of Variety Artists. "Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace," said one union rep in an email obtained by Broadwayworld.com.

But the union was satisfied with MSG's response. "Fortunately, the Company has agreed that ALL participation in this particular event will be voluntary," the Guild said on Facebook. "We are greatly relieved and hope to work with our Members to inform them and alleviate the anxiety and fears that this has caused."

Too bad the agreement has done little to allay Trump's fears that his inauguration will be a C-list affair. "The so-called 'A' list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary," Trump tweeted, "NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!"

Related Resources: