Hank Williams Jr. and ESPN part ways -- but who quit whom?
ESPN says it fired Hank Williams Jr. for making inflammatory comments comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler and the "Three Stooges" and for labeling him "the enemy." But the country star says he's the one who did the quittin' and accused the premium sports channel of stomping all over his 1st Amendment rights.
But this much they can agree upon: Williams will no longer deliver his trademark caterwaul -- Are you ready for some football?? -- for ESPN's "Monday Night Football."
Quick rewind for those who missed the halftime show: Williams appeared on "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning to talk about his take on the Republican field in the upcoming presidential race. There, he launched into a tirade about the golf game between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. He called it one of the biggest political mistakes ever, adding "C'mon! It'd be like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu." And he made it clear that the part of Hitler was being played by the president. Moreover, he refused to back down.
The outrage was swift and immediate. ESPN pulled Williams' "Are You Ready For Some Football?" song and video from its "Monday Night Football" opener, a perch it has enjoyed since 1989. And the Anti-Defamation League denounced Williams' comments: "The Holocaust was a singular event in human history, and it is an insult to the memory of the millions who died as a result of Hitler's plan of mass extermination to compare the Nazi dictator to any American president."
Williams later posted an apology on his Facebook wall, saying his mouth got the better of him. But it didn't end there. ESPN has since announced it is severing its ties with the entertainer. "We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr.," the network said in a statement.
Williams has countered with a statement saying he was the one who did the walking. He was not removed from the broadcast, he says, he quit. "After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision," said a statement on Williams' 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."
We'll probably never get this one settled, so let's move on to the only remaining question: Who will be the new voice of "Monday Night Football"? And will it come with a twang?
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Photo: Hank Williams. Credit: John Raoux / Associated Press