ESPN dropped Hank Williams Jr.'s introduction from last night's Colts-Buccaneers "MNF" game after Williams made “controversial comments Monday about President Obama” on Fox News, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. ESPN in a statement said, "While Hank Williams Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize he is closely linked to our company through the opening to 'Monday Night Football.' We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result have decided to pull the open from tonight's telecast." Williams Monday morning “compared this summer's so-called golf summit between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner as ‘one of the biggest political mistakes ever.’” He said, "It would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli leader) Benjamin Netanyahu" (USA TODAY, 10/4). Following Williams' comment, Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade said, “I don’t understand that analogy actually.” Williams: “I’m glad you don’t, brother, because a lot of people do. They’re the enemy.” Kilmeade: “Who’s the enemy?” Williams: “Obama and Biden! Are you kidding? The ‘Three Stooges.’” Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson said, “You used the name of one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe, I think, the President.” Williams: “That is true, but I’m telling you like it is.” Following the interview, Carlson said, “I just want to say that we disavow any of those comments or analogies that he made" (“Fox & Friends,” Fox News, 10/3).
TAKING IT ONE GAME AT A TIME: ESPN said that the intro "will be pulled for one game and any further decision will be based on how contrite the singer-songwriter is in the immediate future.” The net “skipped over the intro without mentioning the controversy" during the game broadcast. Instead of “leading into the opening bars of Williams’ song after a pre-packed 15-second promo, the network cut to Mike Tirico in the booth and proceeded like nothing happened” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/3). However, ESPN's Adam Schefter did report on Williams' segment not airing prior to the game on "Monday Night Countdown." The overnight "SportsCenter" also touched on the issue and included statements from both ESPN and Williams (THE DAILY). In St. Petersburg, Eric Deggans noted “some had called for Williams’ theme to be dropped permanently from the show, but ESPN wasn’t prepared to go that far" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/3). Williams' situation wsa discussed on all three network morning shows today, and CBS’ Chris Wragge said, “No offense to Hank, but the game didn’t suffer. It’s just a theme song” (“The Early Show,” CBS, 10/4).
TWITTER REAX: CNBC's Darren Rovell wrote on his Twitter feed, “Given ESPN's handling of previous issues, I think there's a good chance that Hank Williams Jr. is never on MNF again.” The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch wrote, "Don't think I'm going out on a limb by predicting you will never hear Hank Williams Jr. on MNF again. Hope he didn't need the money." SI.com's Richard Deitsch: "1. Much respect for ESPN.com to keep open comments section below its Hank Williams Jr. story. 2. Damn, it's heated.” But SI.com's Jimmy Traina wrote, “No doubt this Hank Williams 'controversy' was drummed up to generate interest in an unwatchable MNF telecast tonight" (TWITTER.com, 10/3).
FOURTH DOWN: ESPN earned an 8.0 overnight Nielsen rating for the Colts-Buccaneers "MNF" telecast from 8:30-11:30pm ET, down 22.3% from a 10.3 overnight for Patriots-Dolphins in Week Four last year. In Indianapolis, the game earned a 24.3 local rating on ESPN and an 11.2 rating on WTTV-CW. In Tampa-St. Petersburg, the game earned an 11.0 rating on ESPN and a 10.5 rating on WFTS-ABC (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).