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Nick Cannon quits America’s Got Talent, saying NBC threatened to fire him

America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon says he is leaving the show after NBC threatened to fire and or punish him for a joke that he made on a Showtime stand-up special. On social media, he said that “NBC believed that I was in breach of contract because I had disparaged their brand” but “as a man, an artist, and a voice for my community I will not be silenced, controlled or treated like a piece of property. There is no amount of money worth my dignity or my integrity.”

He’s hosted eight seasons of AGT since 2009, starting with season four. Nick Cannon also hosts NBC’s Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon, which concluded its third season at the end of December.

On his new Showtime special Stand Up, Don’t Shoot, Nick jokes about the show and NBC, and in particular AGT’s predominantly white audience’s responses to his comedy, and the role he plays on AGT.

In the special, he points out one example of viewers’ negative responses to his attire. In his Facebook post, Nick wrote, “Not to get too detailed but this isn’t the first time executives have attempted to ‘put me in my place’ for so called unruly actions. I will not stand for it. My moral principles will easily walk away from the millions of dollars they hang over my head.”

According to Decider’s transcripts, Nick’s act includes these four jokes/comments/references to the show:

“Cause you all see me on the show. Man, sometimes I wish I could say the stuff that I really want to say that I be really thinking. Cause you all see my face on America’s Got Talent. But I can’t say that! I can’t talk like that! Because that’d mess up the white money. It will! Shit. I almost fucked it up, too. On the finale. Did y’all see that? I wore a turban on that motherfucker…We got all type of calls and complaints and shit like that. Why is Nick Cannon dressed like Blanche from The Golden Girls? Shit, it is my Constitutional right to dress like an old white lady if I want to, shit.”

“I grew up like a real nigger. All that stuff. But I honestly believe, once I started doing America’s Got Talent, they took my real nigger card. They did! Because then like these type of people started showing up to my shows.”

“I apologize, white people. We over here talking about bitches and players and stuff, and you think this is America’s Got Talent. It’s going to be a little different tonight. America’s Got Talent, but America’s got niggers, too, so. You staring at a real one onstage. It’s goin’ down. You know, you thought you was going to get the tight suits with the shiny shoes. Not tonight. We are in Crenshaw, this is the fuck you going to get right here. Ain’t got that tight budget down here. But don’t worry! Don’t worry. You all are safe. I got you. I’m still friendly Nick. Just give me a wink if you need it. The officer will help you out.”

“…that’s what NBC gonna stand for tonight. Nigger Better Come on, ‘cuz niggers be cussing. So nigga be careful.”

In his long post announcing that he was quitting, Nick praised the show and its contestants, writing that “I have loved hosting [America’s Got Talent] for the last 8 seasons, watching talented, brave, and courageous Americans accomplish their dreams in front of millions has been nothing but a joy, and everyone has been a pleasure to work with but my soul won’t allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices.”

His statement points out the lack of diversity in both media ownership and in executive ranks, and says “true equality in our industry is impossible.”

The network has not responded to requests from media outlets for comment.

Nick Cannon’s full statement

Here’s what Nick wrote on Facebook and linked to from his other social media accounts:

I write this from a deeply saddened and dolorous mindset. After days of deliberating over some extremely disappointing news that I was being threatened with termination by Executives because of a comedy special that was only intended to bring communities closer together, I was to be punished for a joke. This has weighed heavy on my spirit. It was brought to my attention by my “team” that NBC believed that I was in breach of contract because I had disparaged their brand. In my defense, I would ask how so? Or is this just another way to silence and control an outspoken voice who often battles the establishment. Recently many of my mentors have cautioned me that soon “The System” would come down on me because I was speaking too many truths and being to loud about it. I had no idea that it all would hit so close to home. I find myself in a dark place having to make a decision that I wish I didn’t have to, but as a man, an artist, and a voice for my community I will not be silenced, controlled or treated like a piece of property. There is no amount of money worth my dignity or my integrity. I have loved hosting AMERICAS GOT TALENT for the last 8 seasons, watching talented, brave, and courageous Americans accomplish their dreams in front of millions has been nothing but a joy, and everyone has been a pleasure to work with but my soul won’t allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices. Not to get too detailed but this isn’t the first time executives have attempted to “put me in my place” for so called unruly actions. I will not stand for it. My moral principles will easily walk away from the millions of dollars they hang over my head. It’s never been about the money for me, what is difficult to walk away from is the fans, the people who love me on the show. This hurts tremendously. I felt like I was apart of the fabric of our great nation every summer, representing every culture, age, gender, and demographic. Now for the rug to be pulled from underneath me and to be publicly reprimanded and ridiculed over a joke about my own race is completely wrong and I have to do something about it. I have fought many battles in my career and have never been afraid to go up against the system. I have mulled over my process for days and felt it was best to once again speak my mind about an unjust infrastructure that treat talent like they own them. Maybe it was my mistake for signing the contract in the first place, in which I will take full responsibility and have already taken action to restructure my own team of advisors. I now have to set out on a journey of freedom as an artist. As I was quoted in a recent interview, “You can’t fire a Boss!” and that is the essence that I possess. So I wish AGT and NBC the best in its upcoming season but I can not see myself returning. As of lately I have even questioned if I want to even be apart of an industry who ultimately treats artists in this manner. Most of us don’t realize that there are 6 major corporations that control 90 percent of media in America and the amount of minority executives is dismal. With this being the case, true equality in our industry is impossible. There will always be a “do as I say” mentality that mirrors society’s perception of women and minorities, and only a few will stand up against it. I proudly stand as one of those few, and will gladly take on whatever repercussions that come with it. I love art and entertainment too much to watch it be ruined by controlling corporations and big business. I believe It’s our duty as artists to make a difference and create change even if it’s one act at a time. Dr. King said it best, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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