ESPN attempts to correct course after years of leftist politicking impacts ratings
ESPN has been experiencing a precipitous ratings drop in recent years, due in part to the growing “cord-cutting” trend (cancellation of paid cable and satellite subscriptions) but also due to its increasingly shrill leftist politics.
In an apparent effort to turn the tide, the cable sports network has announced that Hank Williams, Jr. will be returning to Monday Night Football this fall.
Are you ready for some football?
After six years, Hank and all his rowdy friends are back on Monday night.https://t.co/4ssbjDnfeo
— ESPN (@espn) June 5, 2017
In a 2011 Fox and Friends appearance, Williams joked about then-President Obama (D) and then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) golfing together, saying that it was “like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.” The left went insane, outraged that anyone would compare a sitting president to Hitler, and ESPN promptly pulled his song, “Are You Ready for Some Football?”, from its Monday-night football broadcast.
At the time, ESPN made clear that they were pulling the song because Williams had insulted Obama (one time too many).
“While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”
. . . . Williams has been critical of Obama in the past. He campaigned for Sen. John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin in 2008, even changing the words of one of his songs, “Family Tradition,” to blast Obama and the Democrats for the financial crisis the country was facing prior to that year’s election.
Ultimately, the song was pulled from all Monday Night Football broadcasts, and Williams released a song about the incident entitled, “Keep the Change.”
Full disclosure: I quit watching ESPN as a result of this, and after watching the video at least 10 times (okay, maybe more), I shared it far and wide.
Williams, for his part, is thrilled to be back on Monday Night Football.
— Hank Williams, Jr. (@HankJr) June 5, 2017
ESPN is bringing Hank Williams Jr. — and all his rowdy friends — back into the Monday Night Football fold, six years after the sports network parted ways with the brash country rocker following controversial remarks involving then-President Barack Obama.
Williams’ new version of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night,” with his trademark opening: “Are you ready for some football?” will debut before a Sept. 11 game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.
. . . . For Williams, returning to ESPN is an unexpected homecoming.
“I never said, ‘Are you ready for some football’ on stage one time the last five or six years, but I will now,” said the singer, seated in his dressing room during a break in filming the commercial. “I’m feeling at home and it’s a real good thing … It’s kind of like the Nashville Predators playing for the Stanley Cup, it’s like ‘Wow.’”
ESPN calls the move a “return to our past.”
The Tennessean continues:
“I think it’s a return to our past in that it’s such an iconic song associated with football,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN’s senior vice president of events and studio production.
“It was the original,” Druley told The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee. “It belongs to Monday Night Football. It really is about returning to what fans know. It’s a Monday night party and that’s what we’re all hoping to get back to.”
The past to which they presumably wish to return is the past in which the sports channel focused on . . . sports.
Last year, ESPN admitted that its ratings slump was due in no small part to its leftist politics.
Newsbusters reported in November, 2016:
ESPN Public Editor Jim Brady on Election Eve surveyed complaints that the sports network had gone overboard with liberal pieties, frustrating long-time watchers by injecting politics onto the playing field. He agreed with conservative complaints that ESPN had shifted leftward. . . .
….ESPN is far from immune from the political fever that has afflicted so much of the country over the past year. Internally, there’s a feeling among many staffers — both liberal and conservative — that the company’s perceived move leftward has had a stifling effect on discourse inside the company and has affected its public-facing product. Consumers have sensed that same leftward movement, alienating some.” [emphasis not mine]
. . . . But with social media branding and the rise of debate shows that stir up strong opinionizing, ESPN has gotten more political. He summarized the problem neatly.
There have also been concrete actions that have created a perception that ESPN has chosen a political side, such as awarding Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYS despite her not having competed athletically for decades, the company’s decision to move a golf tournament away from a club owned by presidential candidate Donald Trump and a perceived inequity in how punishments for controversial statements were meted out. [emphasis not mine]
It’s also noteworthy that in today’s “resist we much” anti-Trump climate, comparing a sitting president to Adolf Hitler is no longer out-of-bounds: everyone from sitting members of Congress to mainstream media figures does so regularly.
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