The long-running "Monday Night Football" theme song written by Hank Williams Jr. has been permanently cut by ESPN over Williams' comments that purportedly compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
"We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years," ESPN said in a recent statement. "The success of 'Monday Night Football' has always been about the games and that will continue."
Williams gave a statement to The Associated Press, which seemed to indicate that he had been the one who initiated the termination.
''After reading hundreds of emails, I have made MY decision," Williams said. "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.''
Fans and viewers couldn't help but notice last Monday night that ESPN had deleted the tune, '' Are You Ready For Some Football?,'' from the start of the game. The song is a variant of Williams' '' All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,'' which incidentally won four Emmy Awards and has been kicking game night off since 1989.
The 62-year-old country music singer, who is rarely seen without his trademark hat and sunglasses, made a recent appearance on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" show. While talking to hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade, Williams compared the president's recent round of golf with GOP House Speaker John Boehner to ''Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.''
''They're the enemy,'' he said.
''Who's the enemy?'' Kilmeade asked.
''Obama! Biden! The Three Stooges,'' Williams said.
''That's only two,'' Doocy quipped.
The hosts attempted to give Williams the opportunity to soften the Obama-Hitler link.
''You used the name of one of the most hated people in all the world to describe, I think, the president,'' Carlson said.
Williams stuck with his statement.
''That's true,'' he said. ''But I'm telling you like it is.''
ESPN released a statement at that time indicating that the network had decided to pull Williams' tune from the evening telecast. The network gave no indication about future telecasts.
Suggesting that he was misunderstood, Williams issued the following statement of his own: ''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 singer proceeded to issue a second statement in which he attempted to mend fences.
''I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports, and this time it got the Best or Worst of me," he wrote. "The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin [sic] and High Fiven [sic] on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over.''
Neither statement was apparently good enough to satisfy the decision makers at ESPN. Interestingly, Williams' barb was actually aimed mainly at House Speaker Boehner for having given the appearance that he was fraternizing on a golf course with his chief political adversary.
It should be noted that the Hitler comparison is the very same one that the left routinely used with impunity against President George W. Bush throughout his eight years in office.
It is unfortunate to say the least that a great song, one that millions of folks have come to associate with an American institution, will no longer be played because of an inappropriate and ill-considered analogy.
However clumsy Williams' comment was, though, it was not born of malice.
In my opinion, benefit of the doubt should be offered as freely as an apology and should not be doled out according to political correctness or ideology.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and has made several appearances there on landmark decisions. Hirsen is the co-founder and chief legal counsel for InternationalEsq.com. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood.
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