LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ESPN and country music artist Hank Williams Jr. have parted ways, both parties announced on Thursday, following controversial comments in which Williams compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler on Monday.
ESPN said in a statement that Williams’ song “All My Rowdy Friends,” which has been the opening theme song for ESPN and ABC’s “Monday Night Football” for about 20 years, will no longer used as the opener for the show.
“We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr,” ESPN said. “We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of ‘Monday Night Football’ has always been about the games and that will continue.”
But Grammy-winning Williams, 62, indicating that he had made the decision to end his partnership with ESPN.
“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,” Williams said in a statement on his official website.
The final rift came after the sports network pulled the song from the opener of “Monday Night Football” on Monday after Williams said in a Fox News Channel appearance that Obama’s pairing with Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner in a June golf summit was “like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.”
ESPN swiftly replaced the “All My Rowdy Friends” theme with the national anthem on Monday.
Williams later acknowledged that his analogy was “extreme” and apologized if he had offended anyone, but added that the thought of opposing politicians “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.”
There was no word on Thursday on what the replacement theme song for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” will be.
Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant