BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Are you ready for some football? Hank Williams Jr. isn’t anymore.
The country singer and ESPN each took credit for the decision Thursday morning to no longer use his classic intro to “Monday Night Football.”
The network had pulled the song from the game earlier this week after Williams made an analogy to Adolf Hitler in discussing President Barack Obama on Fox News on Monday morning.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF HANK WILLIAMS JR’s EXIT FROM ESPN:
“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” Williams said in a statement to the Associated Press. “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.”
But ESPN’s statement said: “We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue.”
The network said it informed Williams of the move Thursday morning.
Regardless of whose decision it was, one of sports’ and entertainment’s most visible partnerships is over. The song had been a “Monday Night Football” staple since 1989 and survived the game’s switch of networks from ABC to cable a few years ago.
The song is based on Williams’ hit “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” The lyrics were changed each week to reflect the night’s game.
ESPN will no longer have access to the music or words because Williams owns the publishing rights, the master recordings and the song.
Williams’ statement on “Fox & Friends” comparing a golf game between Obama and Republican Rep. John Boehner to an outing featuring Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went viral after ESPN announced it would pull the intro late that afternoon.
Among Williams’ defenders were Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar of “The View,” who have a very different political viewpoint from the conservative Williams, but often are called out for their own comments.
“Those among us who are without sin, cast the first stone,” Goldberg said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.