It’s impossible to separate Hank Williams Jr.’s ‘MNF’ theme from politics

One of the best theme songs in all of sports is coming back to the airwaves. But there are still issues that need to be addressed with the guy who will be singing it again.

From The Tennessean:

ESPN is bringing Hank Williams Jr. — and all his rowdy friends — back into the Monday Night Football fold, six years after the sports network parted ways with the brash country rocker following controversial remarks involving then-President Barack Obama.

Williams’ new version of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night,” with his trademark opening: “Are you ready for some football?” will debut before a Sept. 11 game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.

And what were those “controversial remarks”? A reminder:

Williams described [a golf] outing [between Obama and John Boehner], famously dubbed “the golf summit” as “one of the biggest political mistakes ever.”

As Williams then put it on Fox News’ Fox & Friends: “It would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli leader) Benjamin Netanyahu.” When asked on Fox to explain his analogy, Williams said Obama and Vice President Biden are “the enemy.”

Williams later responded to criticism over the remarks, saying he was “simply trying to show how stupid it seemed to me — how ludicrous that pairing was.”

As great as it is to see the theme back on Monday Night Football to pump us all up for a primetime matchup, I can’t divorce it from what Williams said.

Back in March, I declared Williams’ version of All My Rowdy Friends was the No. 8 greatest sports TV theme song of all time and added this:

This has nothing to do with Hank Williams Jr.’s politics and the comments that led to the song being pulled from Monday Night Football broadcasts. As far as the song itself, it’s an exciting one.

I stand by that. The song is a classic. But ESPN is still hiring back someone who compared the (now former) President to Adolf Hitler. No matter how “ludicrous” Williams thought the analogy was, he was in the wrong.

Stephanie Druley, ESPN’s senior vice president of events and studio production, had this to say when asked about the potential backlash to Williams being rehired:

“I’m sure there’ll be some, but I’m not concerned. It was the right time. We discussed it internally and it was just the right time to bring him back.”

But why bring him back in the first place? Why even start up a controversy when it’s unnecessary? Aren’t there at least 100 artists who didn’t make such a hateful comparison who could sing a new theme song? It’s strange that it’s suddenly “the right time” to bring Williams back, and it’s on ESPN to answer why it’s not concerned about the backlash that should come with it. Even if we want to separate the song from the singer, it’s absolutely impossible.

ESPN was right to move on from Williams in 2011. They shouldn’t assume that time heals what Williams said.

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