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NEW YORK — ESPN has made the decision to permanently cut country singer Hank Williams, Jr. after the country star compared President Obama to Hitler.
“We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr.,” ESPN said in a statement on Thursday. “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’ song “All My Rowdy Friends” had been the open for the Disney-owned network’s marquee NFL property. ESPN pulled it from last Monday’s Indianapolis-Tampa Bay game after Williams comments caused an uproar on the blogosphere. At the time there was no indication that it would be permanent.
The offending comments came during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s morning show Fox & Friends, during which Williams likened Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s recent golf outing with President Obama to “Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.”
ESPN said that Williams was notified this morning. But Williams said it was his decision to pull the song from ESPN.
“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” he wrote on his website. “By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, [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.”
ESPN is not likely to draft a new song for the remainder of the season, a spokesman for the network told The Hollywood Reporter. For the Oct. 10 game, Detroit Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders will narrate a produced open where the Williams song previously ran. The open will highlight the atmosphere in the stadium and cut to preview segments with booth commentators Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski.
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