ESPN, Hank Williams Jr. part ways

Updated: October 6, 2011, 5:43 PM ET
ESPN.com

Hank Williams Jr. and his iconic theme song will not return to ESPN's "Monday Night Football," the network announced Thursday.

In the wake of Williams using an analogy involving Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama to make a political point on the Fox News Channel, Williams' "All My Rowdy Friends" will no longer be part of the MNF opening.

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"We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr," ESPN said 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."

On his own website, Williams said he was the one who made the decision.

"After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision," he wrote. "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."

In an interview Monday on Fox News' "Fox & Friends," Williams, unprompted, said of Obama's outing on the links with House Speaker John Boehner: "It'd be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu."

Asked to clarify, Williams said, "They're the enemy," adding that by "they" he meant Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

ESPN pulled Williams' opening to Monday night's Indianapolis-Tampa Bay game and issued a statement saying: "While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight's telecast."

Williams, through his publicist, said on Monday: "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme -- but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me -- how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites and it made no sense. They don't see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the president."

Tuesday, he issued another statement."The thought of the leaders of both parties jukin and 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," Williams wrote on Facebook and his website. "I am very sorry if it offended anyone."

Williams' song has been part of "Monday Night Football" since 1991 on both ESPN and ABC. He is a Grammy award winner who also was a three-time entertainer of the year from the Academy of Country Music in the 1980s.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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