ESPN has rehired Hank Williams Jr. to sing the “Monday Night Football” theme after they decided to “part ways” with Williams back in 2011. Williams was let go following his comments prior to the 2012 presidential elections in which he used an analogy that involved President Obama and Hitler.
During an interview on “Fox & Friends” of Fox News Channel, Williams commented about how President Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner was akin to “Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” Shortly after his comments, ESPN released a statement expressing their “disappointment with his comments,” and pulled Williams song from their telecasts. Williams responded with a statement of his own, claiming the decision to pull the song was his own, and that ESPN had “stepped on the toes of the First Amendment.”
Now, six years after a move that some thought was permanent, Williams is returning to “Monday Night Football,” with a new version of his song “All my Rowdy Friends,” which famously asks “Are you ready for some football?” The song will debut before the first Monday night game of the season on ESPN. ESPN’s senior vice president of events and studio production Stephanie Druley said that the song is “an iconic song associated with football,” and the decision is about “returning to what fans know.”
ESPN’s decision to bring Williams back has garnered reaction and opinion all over the internet. After ESPN fired close to 100 employees at the end of April, some are questioning the decision to bring back Williams. Some lamented money spent on a minute long song on a once a week broadcast during 16 weeks of the year could have been spent better on writers who cover football every day the entire year. Others are concerned that bringing Williams back no longer condemns his 2011 comments.
Others hope that this is a sign that ESPN is turning away from politics and is getting back to the glory days of old ESPN. A possible political slant at ESPN and in their content has been up for debate, but Disney CEO Robert Iger dismisses any claims of a media bias at ESPN .
As ESPN has lost subscribers and readership, they been forced to lay off employees and readjust and reevaluate their strategies and business plan. While rehiring Williams may not have been explicitly declared as a PR move, ESPN will likely be watching the ratings to see if returning to the original and classic song and faces and will benefit the company.
Be sure to let us know what you think about the hire. Is ESPN getting too political? Is rehiring Williams and attempt to reach a larger audience? What will the effects of this decision be?