ESPN is no longer ready for Hank Williams Jr.
The network parted ways with the country singer this morning in the wake of his comments on the Fox News morning show "FOX and Friends" in which he used an analogy to Adolf Hitler while discussing President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner and Ohio's Republican Governor, John Kasich.
"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."
The decision was made by high-level ESPN executives -- they debated whether to keep it to a short suspension or drop Williams permanently -- and they infomed Williams early this morning. Williams claimed the decision was his alone.
"After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision," he wrote on his website. "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."
An ESPN spokesperson said that the opening for next Monday night's game between the Bears and Lions in Detroit will be similiar to this week's Bucs-Colts opener, a short focus on football prior to the introduction of its broadcasters. Former Lions great Barry Sanders will narrate this week's opener prior to the Bears-Lions game.
"The football-themed tease open that we have been using to start the telecast will now air before kickoff," an ESPN spokesperson said. "The overall telecast will begin with a quick scene set highlighting the atmosphere at Ford Field. In between the scene set and tease, we will have preview segments in the booth with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski and a couple of commercial breaks as usual. This is the format we'll likely use for the remainder of the season. We haven't made any decisions beyond that."
Williams had issued two statements on the subject after he was suspended. "I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me," Williams wrote on his website on Tuesday. "The thought of the Leaders of both 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." Williams Jr. recorded all his songs during a one-day session in the summer, but did not tape his feature segments during the season outside of adding small touches to the lyrics if news required it.
The Williams intro has been synonymous with "Monday Night Football'' since 1989, the 20th season of Monday Night Football. "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night'' is a remixed version of Williams' 1984 song "All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight.''