It's official: Hank Williams Jr. and all his rowdy friends have gotten their party busted. The country superstar has been permanently fired from ESPN, who will no longer use his classic tune as the opener to Monday Night Football.
The network made its decision on Thursday, following Williams's controversial statements on a Fox News Channel program Monday, in which he made an analogy involving President Obama and Adolf Hitler.
"We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr.," ESPN said in a 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."
ESPN's initial response to Williams's comments was to pull the song from that night's telecast of Monday Night Football. Williams issued two statements in response, one explanatory and one apologetic--"I am very sorry if it offended anyone"--but apparently it wasn't enough to sway the network's final decision to drop the song, which has opened MNF for two decades.
However, Williams himself is claiming that he is the one who decided to part ways. On Thursday morning, he posted on his official site: "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."
So, which "firing" came first? The chicken or the egg? It's not apparent. For those asking "Are you sure Hank done it this way?"--the singer's manager, Ken Levitan, told Billboard on Wednesday that Williams has great relationships at the network. "The people there are huge fans of Hank...they love Hank."
Levitan also noted that he felt that ESPN reacted too harshly by pulling the song on Monday. "Hank doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body," he said. "He treats everybody alike. He's very passionate about the things that he is passionate about. He says what he thinks, and sometimes he's extreme in it."
Williams's analogy on Monday has sparked nationwide discussion for the past few days--and resulted in support from some unlikely places. The View's Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, who differ politically from Williams, noted that they understood the point Williams was trying to make.
What do you make of all this? Who fired whom first? Be sure to weigh in and let me know what you're thinking.
As always, be sure to: