ESPN has decided to terminate its relationship with country-western singer Hank Williams Jr. following remarks he made Monday on Fox News comparing President Obama to Hitler. At first defiant, the singer claimed his First Amendment rights had been violated. Later, Williams apologized for the remarks, but still remains on the outs with the cable sports giant.
Song pulled from Monday cablecast
The cable network has used Williams’ song “Are You Ready” to open its Monday Night Football broadcasts for the past 20 years. But after Williams made caustic remarks about the nation’s chief executive, ESPN pulled the intro from its broadcast Monday evening. The network said it was “very disappointed” with the singer’s remarks.
ESPN said the song’s suspension was for one week, and a decision will be made later as to its future relationship with Williams.
Williams claims it was his decision
In a statement on his website, Williams claimed the decision to pull the song was his:
“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.”
The controversial remarks that started all this were spoken Monday morning on the Fox News program Fox and Friends. Referring to the president’s much-publicized golfing relationship with House Speaker John Boehner, Williams said it is “like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.”
Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said he didn’t understand the singer’s remarks. Williams replied, “I’m glad you don’t, brother, because a lot of people do. They’re the enemy … Obama and Biden! Are you kidding?”
Tuesday, however, Williams issued an apology on his website:
“I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me. The thought of the Leaders ofboth 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. I would like to Thank all my supporters. This was Not written by some Publicist.”
ESPN makes it permanent
Thursday ESPN announced that it would be severing its relationship with Williams permanently. The statement said, essentially, that Williams needs ESPN more than ESPN needs him:
“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.”
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/hank-williams-jr-ditched-espn-monday-night-football_n_998033.html
NBC Sports: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/10/06/espn-fires-hank-who-claims-he-quit/related/
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