ESPN Hesitates, Then Drop-Kicks Hank

It took awhile, but ESPN finally called a play when it announced on Oct. 6 that it would no longer use Hank Williams Jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends" in the opening credits for its Monday Night Football telecasts.

On Monday, Oct. 3, Williams said during an interview on Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends that last summer’s “golf summit” between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner “would be like if Adolf Hitler were playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu," and referred to Obama as "the enemy." In Williams' analogy, apparently, Hitler represented Obama.

ESPN cut Williams' song from that night's MNF, and said in a statement the same day that "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.” Williams' song and Williams himself have been identified with MNF since 1989.

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement saying, “The Holocaust was a singular event in human history, and it is an insult to the memory of the millions who died as a result of Hitler's plan of mass extermination to compare the Nazi dictator to any American president.” Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the ADL and a Holocaust survivor, praised ESPN by saying, “ESPN responded appropriately and did the right thing in pulling Hank Williams Jr.’s football song from the airwaves.”

Three full days after Williams appeared on Fox & Friends, ESPN terminated its relationship with Williams. "We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr.," ESPN said in its Oct. 6 statement. "We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue."

The delay in making a final call on Williams—either to stick with him or cut him loose—has only stoked the vicious pro and con debates currently raging. Williams spoke without a filter and ESPN waffled, and now it's ESPN—not Williams—that's at the center of an ugly national spat.