I Don't Think Hank Williams Jr. Should Have Been Fired by ESPN for His Stupid Comment Comparing Obama to Hitler

After this, I promise to take a break from the drama and go back to writing about Day Drinking.
Publish date:
October 7, 2011
politics, nfl, sports, obama, espn, firings, hank williams jr., monday night football

It’s been a rough week for country singer Hank Williams Jr. First, he appeared on “Fox & Friends” and made a ridiculous analogy saying a golf game between President Obama and Republican Rep. John Boehner would be “like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu. Then, ESPN dropped his opening song from Monday Night Football (you know, the one that asks: “Are you ready for some football?”) in response to his remarks, and now, depending on who you believe, he either pulled the song from all future broadcasts OR ESPN “fired” him.

Thursday morning, ESPN released a statement saying, "We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams, Jr.” Within the hour, Hank Williams Jr. fired back posting on his website:

"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." (It appears that Hank and I share the same proclivity for writing random words in all caps. The similarities, however, stop there.)

Regardless of whom you believe (I'm going with he got fired), what I don’t get is why this has become such a big deal. I mean, we’re freaking out about some asinine comments by a B-list country singer who doesn’t even understand how the First Amendment works!

Personally, I don’t believe Hank Williams Jr.’s over-the-top comparison was a carefully calculated hate-inspired political statement. Rather, I think he was in the midst of an interview and said something totally outlandish and ridiculous to try to make a point. If he hadn’t gone straight to Hitler and, instead, had said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, would anyone have even paid attention? (I get it, Hitler is, well, HITLER, but still…)

Also, why is Hank Williams Jr. even being asked about politics on a TV show? Sure, he donates lots of money to the Republican Party, but does that mean America needs to hear his take on the issues? I mean, this is a guy who sings lyrics like, “I got girls that can cook, I got girls that can clean, I got girls that can do anything in between.” And we want his opinion on the state of our country?

Believe me: I’m not saying that people should lightly throw around Hitler’s name. (Obviously.) What I’m saying is that Hank Williams Jr. said something completely ridiculous, and because the media loves a good circus, it was completely blown out of proportion in order to create a week-long news story. A news story that wouldn’t even exist if we, the consumers of media, didn’t play into it. Yes, that’s right: I’m blaming us for giving the media exactly what it wants: an overreaction. (And, yes, I get that I am writing about it, but I am doing so in the hopes I make a point that has nothing to do with this specific story.)

That public reaction (over or not, depending on your opinion) is what caused ESPN to pull Hank Willams Jr. song on Monday night and is also likely what nudged Hank Williams Jr. into clarifying his statement the following day. He apologized if he offended anyone and said the Obama-Hitler analogy was “extreme -- but it was to make a point.” He added, “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.”

You know what makes no sense, Hank Williams Jr.? Your stupid analogy. But do I think you’re a horrible person for saying it? No. I think you said something dumb. And I’m not going to freak out on you because I say dumb stuff ALL OF THE TIME.

Again, I think it’s a problem that Hank Williams Jr. compared the President to Hitler. But I think it’s a much bigger problem that our society puts so much weight on the words of actors, musicians, reality TV stars, athletes, etc. We seem to expect anyone who is put in the spotlight for whatever reason to be educated and politically correct. And when they are not, we secretly cheer on their failure. Because that’s what makes headlines and allows us to disengage from our actual problems. Personally, I think we should judge people mostly on the talent that put them in the spotlight in the first place, not on the things they say now that they “have the floor.”

But since that will never ever happen, I guess I’ll just be happy I never have to hear that wretched song again. “Are you ready for some football?” Stop wasting my time with rhetorical questions and just play already.