BRISTOL, Conn. — ESPN pulled Hank Williams Jr.’s classic intro song from its broadcast of “Monday Night Football” after the country singer - famous for the line “Are you ready for some football?” - used an analogy to Adolf Hitler in discussing President Obama.
In an interview Monday morning on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Williams, unprompted, said of Mr. Obama’s outing on the links with House Speaker John A. Boehner: “It’d be like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Asked to clarify, Mr. Williams said, “They’re the enemy,” adding that by “they” he meant Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
Anchor Gretchen Carlson later said to him, “You used the name of one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe, I think, the president.” Mr. Williams replied, “Well, that is true. But I’m telling you like it is.”
ESPN issued a statement Monday that said, “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.”
Mr. Williams released a statement the same day through his publicist, saying: “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.”
“Every time the media brings up the tea party it’s painted as racist and extremists - but there’s never a backlash - no outrage to those comparisons,” Mr. Williams‘ statement continued. “Working-class people are hurting - and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job - it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change.”
On Tuesday, a contrite Williams posted a more explicit apology on his Facebook page. “I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me,” the singer wrote. “The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin and High Fiven on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over and make a Dumb statement and I am very Sorry if it Offended anyone.”
ESPN covered the story during “SportsCenter” and the pregame show but did not mention the song’s absence at the start of the game telecast, when fans would normally be hearing “Are you ready for some football?” Instead of a music video, viewers just saw clips of both teams with a voice-over about the matchup.
The song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” is a remixed version of Mr. Williams‘ 1984 hit “All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight.” The version won him four Emmy Awards in the early 1990s as the opening theme to “Monday Night Football,” then on ABC.