Hank Williams Jr Controversy Sparks 1st Amendment Concerns and Inspires A New Song.
Recently, Hank Williams Jr. sat down on Fox‘s Hannity for an interview. In this interview, he made the unfortunate choice of comparing President Barack Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner to Hitler playing golf with the Israeli Prime Minister. As a result of his comments, Williams’ popular and arguably iconic opening theme for the “Monday Night Football” broadcast was suspended from the October 3rd Indianapolis-Tampa Bay game. Following this temporary suspension, the choice was made to pull the theme song permanently. Both ESPN and Hank Williams Jr. have made official statements claiming that the removal was their choice. Either way, the theme song which has represented Monday Night Football for over two decades has been retired.
Since this series of events unfolded, several individuals have made a point of throwing in their two cents on the issue. Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg of The View came to Williams defense, citing 1st Amendment rights violations. On the other hand, Hank Williams III told TMZ that his father was not worthy of a political discussion and should have just kept his mouth shut. I am inclined to agree with Joy and Whoopi on this one.
I do not agree with the content of Williams’ statements, and I certainly do not believe that President Obama is the enemy. The choice of Hitler as a comparison is wholly inaccurate and a little ridiculous. Yet, the sentiment of his statement is, I think, representative of the disconnection many Americans feel from the political system which is supposedly representative of them, but seems only to be failing. In a revision of his inflammatory initial statements, Hank clarifies his point of view in a more constructive way.
“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…Working class people are hurting — and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job, it makes a whole lot of us angry.” – Hank Williams Jr.
At the end of the day, however, his statements are not really the issue. The problem is Hank was sanctioned for statements he made unrelated to ESPN, Monday Night Football or football at all. ESPN’s suspension and ultimate removal of the theme song was a completely inappropriate knee jerk reaction to statements they really have no jurisdiction to officially respond to in the first place. Had ESPN released a statement suggesting Hank Williams Jr.’s statements were not representative of the organization, that would have been a much more appropriate response. This is essentially what they are demonstrating by removing the theme song. Hank, or any other American citizen, has the right to voice his opinion without fear of these types of sanctions.
It seems despite these restrictions though, Hank Williams Jr. is still continuing to share his opinion. This time he is using the method he knows best: music. Hank Williams Jr. has written a song specifically addressing his recent experiences and this whole controversy. It is titled “Keep the Change“, and was released via his website on Monday, October 10th. The song is still available for listening and free download.
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