After two decades, Hank Williams Jr. will stop asking sports fans "Are you ready for some football?" on Monday nights. His iconic "Monday Night Football" theme song will no longer run before ESPN's weekly game following the country singer's controversial remarks about President Obama on Fox News on Monday (Oct. 3).
Williams' "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" had served on as the theme of "Monday Night Football" on ESPN and ABC since 1991, but on Thursday, both Williams and ESPN issued statements announcing the permanent split. "We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr.," says ESPN 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."
Williams responded on his website, ""After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. 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."
On Fox News' "Fox & Friends" on Monday, Williams said of President Obama playing golf with Republican House Speaker John Boehner, "It'd be Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu." The unprompted analogy caused ESPN to pull Williams' intro song from their "Monday Night Football" broadcast that night, and an issue a statement saying that the company was "extremely disappointed with his comments."
Williams issued an apology on his official website on Tuesday, calling the analogy a "dumb statement" and writing, "I am very sorry if it offended anyone." In an interview with Billboard on Tuesday, Williams' manager, Ken Levitan, said that he understood what the country singer was trying to say on the show and disagreed with ESPN's decision to pull the song from Monday night's broadcast.
"I think it was blown out of proportion," said Levitan. "What Hank meant was directed toward the extreme differences between the parties. I think he explained that in the statements he made afterwards. He's a passionate guy. Obviously, he's not an Obama fan. But I think he was talking about the two of them getting together were polar opposites. That's what he was trying to get across… Hank doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body, so there was no use of it that way. He treats everybody alike. He's very passionate about the things that he is passionate about. He says what he thinks, and sometimes he's extreme in it."
"All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" is a reworked version of Williams' 1984 hit "All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight," which appears on the album "Major Moves." His most recent album, 2009's "127 Rose Avenue," debuted at No. 19 on the Billboard 200.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Dauphin, Nashville)