Hank Williams, Jr. made a very thoughtless, politically incendiary comment about President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden comparing the two to Adolph Hitler. ESPN, Mr. Williams’ most public employer who has used the singer to open up the Monday Night Football broadcast, reacted by immediately pulling Mr. Williams’ opening theme song asking the audience if they were ready for some footbaaaaawl.
No doubt the defenders of conservative politics and anybody who would attack the President will be quick to say that liberals made the same comments about George Bush, Jr. when he was President so it’s just hypocrisy that everybody wants to jump on Mr. Williams’ back now. ESPN is selectively trying to infringe on Mr. Williams’ freedom of speech. But the big difference is that nobody who worked for ESPN with an opening theme song said anything about Mr. Bush. Mr. Williams did. So the comparison is rather absurd.
It was unclear if the yanking of Mr. Williams’ act was a permanent thing or just a one time shot. The dust of the situation had yet to settle and all people could do is wait. But we have our answer. ESPN announced that it has severed its relationship with Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams counters that he has severed his relationship with ESPN because of the company’s attempt to infringe on his freedom of speech and therefore he’s leaving and has decided to take his theme song with him. I guess Mr. Williams thinks all those Monday Night Football fans were tuning in to see his videotaped, computer graphically enhanced special effects concert and were only hanging around for the game because there was nothing else to do.
It’s been years since I’ve bothered myself to watch a Monday Night Football game. Football just doesn’t hold my interests the way it used to. I think that’s a good thing. But when I did, I was well familiar with the theme song and did my share of sang a longs with Mr. Williams. I didn’t give Mr. Williams’ political views any thought. It wasn’t until he volunteered to put his views out into the public so spectacularly that caused some of us to question his beliefs and his values.
And the idea that Mr. Williams’ right to free speech is being infringed is really off the mark. No one knocked on his door and took him away to a concentration camp for rehabilitation. Nobody took away his property. Mr. Williams is free to say what he feels and how he feels as long as he doesn’t slander anyone or infringes on anyone else’s rights. His rights are still intact. He’s free to take his views and his song, if it does truly belong to him, anywhere he wants. Would anybody be surprised to see Mr. Williams going over to FOX, changing a word or two of his theme song and ask the television audience, Are you ready for O’Rileeeeeeey?
But people forget that the ESPN Corporation is a person too and it has rights as well. It has its own freedom of speech and it has the right to say who can and can’t be affiliated with its public image. For anyone to say that Hank Williams, Jr. has the right to say how he feels and ESPN should be canned for responding to that is actually being hypocritical. Why is it okay for Mr. Williams to say how he feels about shit and then turnaround and say that ESPN doesn’t have the right to say how it feels about his shit? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Mr. Williams can take his theme song elsewhere. ESPN can take its show elsewhere.
And for the record, high profile liberals who criticized Mr. Bush did suffer the consequences. Back in 2003, just before the United States launched its invasion of Iraq, the American country band The Dixie Chicks was performing a concert in London when they said that they were embarrassed that their President, Mr. Bush, was from Texas and was opening a new front in the war on terror. Many of their country music fans were offended and thought the group was unpatriotic. They lost half their audience and they didn’t even call him a Hitler wannabe. I’m assuming it was the conservative half. They were attacked with a massive response of hate mail, death threats, and the public destruction of Dixie Chicks CDs and other paraphernalia. Would anyone say that all of those people protesting the Dixie Chicks were infringing on the band’s freedom of speech? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
The Dixie Chicks had to bounce back. When they lost their more conservative fans, they picked up other fans who weren’t necessarily fans of country music, but wanted to support a group with the courage to speak their convictions. Mr. Williams will do the same. He may have lost a lot of people who saw him as the opening act of the football show. But he’s bound to pique the interests of conservatives who could not care any less about football. Trust me, it’s only a matter of time before we hear something like, Are you ready for Sean Haniteeeee!
And there’s no doubt that ESPN is going to lose a few fans as well. A lot of people are under the perception that an attack on anyone who criticizes Mr. Obama is an attack on conservatism everywhere. People who think that ESPN should be supported for not letting Mr. Williams get away with attacking Mr. Obama with impunity. All of a sudden I have an interest in watching a little Monday Night Football. If anybody ask I do believe I might be ready.