Hank Williams Jr. says his free speech rights violated in Hitler comment
Hank Williams Jr. says he left Monday Night Football for violating his free speech rights. ESPN says Monday Night Football doesn't need Hank Williams Jr. anymore.
BRISTOL, Conn. — Who fired whom? Does it matter?
ESPN issued its own statement Thursday, thanking Hank Williams Jr. for his contributions to Monday Night Football, but they will part ways.
The network had pulled the song from the game Monday night after Williams made an analogy to Adolf Hitler while discussing President Barack Obama on Fox News on Monday morning. Williams later apologized for the remark.
"After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision," Williams said in a statement to The Associated Press. "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."
But ESPN's statement said: "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."
Spokesman Kirt Webster said Williams made the decision Wednesday night, while the network said it informed Williams of the move Thursday morning.
Regardless of whose call it was, one of sports' and entertainment's most visible partnerships is over. The song had been a "Monday Night Football" staple since 1989 and survived the game's switch of networks from ABC to cable a few years ago.
The song is based on Williams' hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight." The lyrics were changed each week to reflect the night's game.
ESPN will no longer have access to the music or words because Williams owns the publishing rights, the master recordings and the song. Williams, the son of country music icon Hank Williams, is known for his bombastic manner and easy opinions.
Williams' statement on "Fox & Friends" comparing a golf game between Obama and Republican Rep. John Boehner to an outing featuring Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went viral after ESPN announced it would pull the intro late that afternoon.
"It'd be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu," Williams said during the satellite interview.
Asked to clarify, Williams said, "They're the enemy," adding that by "they" he meant Obama and Vice President Joe 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." Williams replied, "Well, that is true. But I'm telling you like it is."
Williams issued a statement Monday night insisting his remarks were misunderstood, then apologized Tuesday.
Williams got plenty of support, even from some unlikely places.
"Those among us who are without sin, cast the first stone," Goldberg said.