ESPN said it has permanently removed Hank Williams Jr.’s opening song to its “Monday Night Football” telecasts, three days after the country singer compared President Barack Obama to Hitler.
“We appreciate his contributions over the past years,” the Walt Disney Co.-owned network said in a statement. “The success of ‘Monday Night Football’ has always been about the games, and that will continue.”
ESPN had yanked the song, which contains the lyrics “Are you ready for some football?” from this past Monday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Williams in a statement on his website said it was his decision to pull the song for the remainder of the season.
“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment,” the statement said. “Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”
The controversy began Oct. 3 when the entertainer appeared on the Fox News Channel. While criticizing Obama and House Speaker John Boehner for playing a round of golf together during the summer, Williams said it would be like “Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu,” referring to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel.
Williams later issued a statement, saying the comparison was “extreme.”
“I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me, how ludicrous that pairing was. I have always respected the office of the president.”
ESPN said former Lions running back Barry Sanders will narrate the opening to its Oct. 10 game between the Bears and Lions. It’s the first Monday night game in Detroit in a decade, the network said.