Gone – Hank Williams Jr. From Monday Night Football: Who Cut Who?
Some of you will have been following the news about country music singer Hank Williams Jr. and his remarks involving Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler. If you are aware of the amount of controversy this caused you will probably not be surprised to hear that he’s now gone from ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
Anybody who watches Monday Night Football will know Hank Williams Jr.’s iconic theme song but following the storm about Williams’ comments during the “Fox & Friends” morning show on Fox News on Monday, ESPN has chosen to cut its ties with him. Speaking on Fox News Williams had used an analogy while talking about President Obama being out playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner and said, “It’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” When he was prompted further Williams continued, “They’re the enemy,” and made it clear that ‘enemy’ referred to Obama and his Vice President Joe Biden.
Following Williams’s remarks ESPN chose to pull his opening music for that night’s Monday Night Football and at that time also issued a statement saying “While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast,” according to an ESPN report.
As a result of this Williams appeared to backtrack, issuing his own statement in which he said, “Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. 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. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the president.” The next day Williams issued another statement on his website and Facebook in which he referred to his own “dumb statement” and apologized to anybody who had been offended.
Today ESPN has announced, “We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue.” However on Williams’s website he has stated that it was his decision to end the association saying, “After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”
Meanwhile a First Amendment expert at Baker Hostetler, Bruce W. Sandford, said of Williams, “He seems to be saying that ESPN is discouraging his freedom of speech, which it certainly is, but it is entitled to do so as a private company which does not have to use a tone-deaf politico to sing into its kickoffs,” according to Richard Sandomir over on The New York Times. Apparently ESPN told Williams about the decision shortly before the announcement but has made no further comment regarding Williams’s version of what happened.
It’s certainly intriguing stuff and we’d really like to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that ESPN did the right thing and almost had no other option than to end its association with Williams? Maybe you side with Williams’s rights to say what he thinks? Let us know with your comments.
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