TMZ.com is reporting: Cracker Barrel has become the first sponsor to cut bait with "Duck Dynasty" ... but not entirely.
The Southern-themed food chain reacted to Phil Robertson's anti-gay comments by removing "selected products which we were concerned might offend some of our guests" from their stores and restaurants.
We called a bunch of Cracker Barrel stores, and the managers told us the products that were removed were the ones that had Phil's face plastered on the packaging. Almost to a person, the managers added, "We still offer a wide variety of Duck Commander products," and then we heard a click.
C.B. offers this explanation ... "We operate within the ideals of fairness, mutual respect and equal treatment of all people. These ideals are the core of our corporate culture."
As for most of the remaining products ... we're told you can find them in the sale bin.
EOnline.com is reporting: But can the family really walk away? Will a fifth season even happen?
The network owns the series and all of the intellectual property behind it, for at least one more season. But as one source points out, "The family could do appear on another network once their exclusivity is up with A&E. Under a normal contract, that usually means anywhere from six months to a year after the final episode has aired. However, if the family breaks their agreement with the network, the network could hold them for longer."
It's also fair to assume that A&E needs the series more than the family does. Duck Dynasty is A&E's highest-rated show of all time, and has put the cable network on the map. It is the second-biggest cable series of the year, behind AMC's The Walking Dead, and the Christmas special pulled in nearly 9 million viewers.
A source who works on Duck Dynasty believes the Phil Robertson controversy "can't end well," citing that the network has nowhere now to go. And the most likely scenario is that the series will end up being cancelled after season five.
"If the network backs down and they bring Phil back, they look weak," one insider explains. "If they stand their ground, the family probably won't move forward and A&E loses their highest rated show." Not to mention,
"No one can really imagine the show going forward without Phil. It would be too weird."
A&E has not responded to request for comment.
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