Country singer Hank Williams Jr. made headlines this week when he compared the President of the United States to Hitler and in turn ESPN made big headlines when they fired him as a result (or according to him he quit). It sparked a debate about the crossing point between sports and politics and whether ESPN made the right call or not.
First, I want to make it clear that I despise when politics creeps into sports. I’ve always felt like sports is the one major haven we have from those endless debates between liberals and conservatives. It’s one of the few places where we right ad left alike can agree that we like this guy because he’s on our team and we don’t like that guy because he’s on the Cowboys. But, like it does in so many parts of our lives, politics will creep in at times and we have to deal with it.
That said, Hank Williams Jr. talking about politics brushes up against sports about as lightly as is possible. His only real connection to sports is that he has sung the theme song for Monday Night Football for what seems like forever. Just in case you haven’t heard though, speaking on Fox News, Hank expressed his displeasure with Republican John Boehner’s decision to play golf with President Obama saying “’It’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.”
Now, I’m of two minds here. For one, we really need to take this comparing of people to Hitler and Nazis out of our lexicon. It’s horribly offensive to the memory of the people who died at their hands and it’s simply an exaggeration that can’t be tolerated. Short of murdering thousands of people, there’s nothing an American politician can do to be like Nazis or Hitler and we’ve become far too tolerant of people doing that. So as to whether Hank Williams Jr. was wrong, there can be no doubt. What he said was indefensible.
However, does that mean he shouldn’t be associated with Monday Night Football? Do his outlandish political views mean that “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here For Monday Night” is suddenly inappropriate? That’s what I’m not sure of. I’ve always known that Hank Williams Jr. has crazy political views, but I’ve never associated those with the brand of Monday Night Football. I just see it as a really catchy and fun intro about hanging out with your friends and watching football. Has anyone ever stopped to consider the political views of Hank Jr. upon hearing that song? Not likely.
Having said that, I can applaud ESPN for taking a drastic measure to punish something that is taken lightly far too often. It’s never ok to compare someone to Hitler and we should see that as a major offense to our sensibilities in this country. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t miss hearing “All My Rowdy Friends” every Monday Night.
I think we’ll all miss Hank’s song more than we would that awful Sunday Night Football intro Faith Hill subjects us to on a weekly basis...