Hank Williams Jr.
ESPN, more affectionately known as the “worldwide leader in sports,” has taken a hit in their ratings over the last few years. Most of their ratings dip was a direct result of the network’s push to incorporate liberal political commentary into their sports programming. However, their downward spiral began several years ago, after they parted ways with Hank Williams Jr.
Williams began performing his legendary song, All My Rowdy Friends, for Monday Night Football back in 1989, which marked the 20th anniversary season. But, ESPN terminated their long-term partnership with Williams in 2011 over comments he made about then President Barack Obama.
Williams compared Obama golfing with then House Speaker, John Boehner, to Hitler golfing with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which he called “one of the biggest political mistakes ever.” The harmless comment nevertheless ignited a liberal firestorm, after which, ESPN parted ways with Williams.
“While Hank Williams Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize he is closely linked to our company through the opening to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast,” said ESPN in a statement issued after the comment. When Williams was asked on Fox and Friends to explain his thinking he referred to Obama and Biden as…
After ESPN made their announcement, Williams issued a statement saying he was “simply trying to show how stupid it seemed to me-how ludicrous that pairing was.” Williams added that Boehner and Obama were “polar opposites and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will.”
ESPN recently laid-off more than 100 employees, many of them rumored to have held more conservative political views. Senior vice-president of events and studio production, Stephanie Druley, said Williams’ return is about the fans. “I think it’s a return to our past in that it’s such an iconic song associated with football,” she said.
“It was the original,” Druley told USA Today-Tennessee. “It belongs to Monday Night Football. It really is about returning to what fans know. Druley also noted that she was not concerned about negative reactions to the news saying “I’m sure there’ll be some, but I’m not concerned.” Williams touted his resurrection on MNF as an “unexpected homecoming.”