10 Biggest Blowups From Celebrities Getting Political

Believe it or not, celebrities are real people with real opinions. But, unlike most ordinary folks, they have an avenue on which to express them to the world. That, of course, can cause problems — for better or for worse. Enter Hank Williams Jr., who recently stuck his foot in his mouth when he said the golf summit between John Boehner and Barrack Obama was akin to "Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu." In response, ESPN pulled his famous Monday Night Football intro, and has yet to determine whether or not it'll appear on the telecast again. The following instances of celebs getting political — including Hank's folly — caused the biggest blowups. Although some made comments that were completely asinine, others were merely advocating a cause in which they truly believed.

  1. Tommie Smith and John Carlos take a stand

    Sports are entertainment. Entertainment is an escape from the stresses of everyday life. So when an athlete uses the platform of a sporting event to make a political statement, we tend to feel a little uncomfortable. During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Smith and Carlos placed first and third respectively in the 200m, subsequently giving the Black Power salute on the podium as the Star Spangled Banner played. At the request of International Olympic Committee president Anthony Brundage, both were expelled from the Games. When they returned home to their racially divided country, they faced severe criticism and death threats. More than four decades later, it's remains one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.

  2. Muhammad Ali pulls no punches on 'Nam

    With a tongue as quick and powerful as his right hook, Ali could make millions of enemies with a single comment. His opposition to the Vietnam War on religious grounds — he converted to the Nation of Islam in 1964 — and refusal to serve in the army damaged his reputation in America. During a contentious time in the country socially, people were incensed by his statements, the most controversial of which were "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong" and "No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over." As a result, his boxing license in New York was revoked, he was stripped of his heavyweight title, and he was convicted of draft evasion, but the case was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.

  3. Cat Stevens jumps off the Peace Train

    His songs are as mellow as they come, so it's difficult to imagine Stevens advocating the murder of Salman Rushdie, whose novel Satanic Verses earned the issuance of a fatwa against him. Nonetheless, Stevens' comments, which he delivered at Kingston University in London in 1989, were quite clear: "He must be killed. The Qur'an makes it clear — if someone defames the prophet, then he must die." He quickly backtracked, saying his comments were "stupid and offensive jokes." Stevens converted to Islam in 1977, took the name Yusuf Islam, and shifted his focus away from the music industry. Despite being less involved in his career, he experienced significant backlash, as radio stations around America stopped playing his songs and his former fans publicly destroyed his records.

  4. Sinead O'Connor rips the Pope

    Raised in Ireland, O'Connor developed strong views on Roman Catholicism, particularly when it came to sexual abuse in the Church. When her singing career reached its peak in popularity, she used her pulpit on Saturday Night Live to protest the issue, singing an a cappella version of War by Bob Marley with modified lyrics, ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II and exclaiming "Fight the real enemy." The higher-ups at NBC were stunned, and the network received thousands of calls from angry viewers. In the following weeks, Joe Pesci and Madonna used the same stage to speak out against O'Connor's diatribe.

  5. Bill Maher is too politically incorrect

    Maher has made a living on "getting political." His show Politically Incorrect, which featured a panel of celebs discussing a variety of hot topics, won an Emmy Award and was widely praised by critics. However, it was conveniently canceled after his 2002 comments that the September 11th hijackers weren't cowards, which Chairman Lloyd Braun claimed weren't the cause of the show's demise. Maher has rebounded nicely with his HBO program Real Time with Bill Maher.

  6. Dixie Chicks' shame

    If you're a business savvy artist, the last thing you want to do is say something that will obviously enrage your fan base. The Dixie Chicks performed bluegrass and country music, catering to mostly conservative American audiences, which is probably why they felt comfortable enough in London to express their opposition to the impending Iraq War in 2003. Lead singer Natalie Maines spoke for the group when she said "we don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas," prompting many of their fans to label the group "un-patriotic," boycott their concerts, and eliminate any evidence of fanhood — public demonstrations in which fans destroyed CDs and memorabilia made national news. Their song "Landslide" immediately dropped on the Billboard Hot 100, the beginning of their rapid decline in popularity.

  7. Carlos Delgado's not-so-silent protest

    Native to Puerto Rico, Delgado embraced his right to free speech during road trips to American stadiums — he played for baseball's Toronto Blue Jays — during the 2004 season. When his teammates would leave the dugout, he would simply stay behind in protest of the War in Iraq. Of course, baseball is America's pastime, so many fans were displeased with the perceived lack of respect for their country. He was roundly booed during a game versus the Yankees in New York, where they were almost three years removed from the attacks on the World Trade Center. It didn't deter Delgado, whose advocacy of peace before the protest had seldom been reported.

  8. Kanye West doesn't care for President Bush

    Emotions were running high in America following Hurricane Katrina. Celebrities were conducting relief campaigns, including A Concert for Hurricane Relief, in which Kanye West, on national television, infamously declared that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." The charge of racism was met with outrage by people on the right and left who felt politicizing the moment was inappropriate. In his memoir Decision Points, Bush called Kanye's comments "an all-time low." Kanye responded remorsefully on The Today Show, explaining that it was his "moment of frustration."

  9. Tony Bennett says 9/11 occurred Because of U.S.

    Everyone loves Tony Bennett — he's the last celeb you would expect to make a controversial comment, especially about September 11th, which is why so many of his fans were taken by surprise when he told Howard Stern "they flew the plane in, but we caused it, because we were bombing them and they told us to stop." Not long afterward, the World War II vet, also a self-described humanist and pacifist, told Newsday, "I am sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of my love for my country, my hope for humanity and my desire for peace throughout the world."

  10. Hank Williams is ready for some apologizin'

    Just a couple days after making the comments — and probably realizing that his ties to MNF could be in jeopardy — Williams issued an apology on Facebook page, saying his love for sports and politics "got the best or worst of me." He further explained his comments: "My analogy was extreme — but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me — how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites and it made no sense." In recent days, ESPN has distanced itself from the country singer, expressing "extreme disappointment" in the fiasco.

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