In this year of pandemic-induced hiatuses and shortened seasons, it’s safe to say everybody is ready for some football. But are you ready for some Monday Night Football without Hank Williams Jr. singing the intro? In a year where nothing is normal, ESPN couldn’t resist adding to the weirdness as the network has decided to yank Hank from the opening intro for the 2020 NFL season. Here’s a look at the history of Hank and why ESPN made its decision.
Hank Williams started singing intro in 1989
Hank Williams Jr. and his rowdy friends have been a part of Monday Night Football for more than two decades. The legendary singer-songwriter first joined ABC’s broadcast of the NFL’s premier weekly night game back in 1989.
While Williams remained a constant at the opening of the broadcast for years, the same level of consistency could not be found in the Monday Night Football booth, which has seen a steady rotation of announcers through the years. Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf were there for the call when Williams first sang his football anthem.
Some of the more notable announcers that have followed include Joe Theismann, Boomer Esiason, Dan Fouts, John Madden, Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, and comedian Dennis Miller. This season will have a whole new crew in the booth with Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick.
Hank Williams pulled in 2011 after controversial comments
While Hank Williams Jr. first sang the intro for Monday Night Football in 1989, there was a period in the last decade where his bluesy-rock voice was silenced. That happened in 2011 when ESPN axed Williams for several controversial remarks.
Williams appeared on Fox and Friends that year and blasted President Obama for playing golf with former House Speaker John Boehner, describing it “would be like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Williams didn’t stop there. He later went on to call Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “the enemy.”
Shortly after the comments, ESPN announced “All My Rowdy Friends” would not be a part of the broadcast.
ESPN pulls plug on Williams for 2020
In 2017, Hank Williams Jr. made his return to Monday Night Football. For the last three seasons, he’s been that familiar up-tempo voice to open the popular NFL broadcast. ESPN announced yesterday that with the current state of the nation, Williams and his rowdy friends wouldn’t be welcome.
According to the Sports Business Journal, the network decided Williams’ opening song wouldn’t be appropriate for games played in empty stadiums. Instead, the song will be replaced by the late Little Richard, who died in May, and his song “Rip It Up,” with instrumentals from a Virginia-based band called Butcher Brown combined with Richard’s voice.
While ESPN’s move is sure to anger some fans, most fans are starved for sports in a year full of hiatuses and shortened seasons and are just happy to see football returning. In other words, everyone is ready for some football.