ESPN Rejects Liberal Label, Re-Hiring Hank Williams Jr. Is Proof, Exec Claims

A top ESPN executive says that the sports network has no political agenda, because, for one thing, it rehired country singer Hank Williams Jr. for the Monday Night Football open.

Williams performing his song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” with the signature line “Are you ready for some football?” was part of the pre-game NFL intro from 1989 to October of 2011. ESPN parted ways with Williams after he made inflammatory comments about President Barack Obama.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, Williams is teaming up with Florida Georgia Line and Jason Derulo for an all-new Monday Night Football theme song to debut this fall as ESPN evidently decided to let bygones be bygones.

Executive Vice President of Programming Burke Magnus told Sports Business Daily that bringing back Williams after a six-year hiatus is one example that refutes the alleged liberal trend. He also maintained that a direct business competitor, which apparently is a reference to Fox Sports perhaps via hosts and outspoken ESPN critics Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis, have planted a false narrative.

According to Magnus, “It would be foolish in the business that we’re in to take sides on the political arena. Our business competitor perpetuates this narrative because in this highly partisan time, it suits them to highlight this distinction, even when it doesn’t exist.”

ESPN exec says Hank Williams Jr. rehire is proof its not a liberal network
[Image by Mark Humphrey/AP Images]

For whatever reason or combination of reasons, Disney-owned ESPN reportedly loses about 10,000 cord-cutting subscribers every day and lost about 13 million subscribers in the past six years. Cable and satellite providers charge each customer $7 a month for the ESPN channels, so the loss of income for ESPN is massive.

The red ink resulted in April layoffs of about 100 public-facing employees, including on-air anchors, commentators, and website writers.

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ESPN is still on the hook for $7 billion-$8 billion in telecast rights fees to the NFL, NBA, MLB, and various college leagues this year alone amidst ongoing subscriber erosion and a reported ratings decline of 16 percent.

The increasing political content on ESPN has allegedly taken a toll on viewership, and by extension, revenue, according to some media industry observers such as Clay Travis.

A study by market research firm Deep Root Analytics, for example, suggests that right-leaning viewers are bailing on ESPN as it delves more into social commentary from a liberal/progressive perspective rather than concentrating on live games and game highlights for fans who seek an escape from day-to-day worries.

In an essay on the ESPN website published in December of 2016, public editor (i.e., ombudsman) Jim Brady conceded that the network has moved in a leftward direction, alienating some viewers. In mid-April, Brady wrote that this trend will continue with management’s blessing.

“ESPN has made it clear: It’s not sticking to sports.”

In a late April tweet, Brady asserted that ESPN’s financial challenges are mainly the result of cable unbundling, but politics also factor into the scenario as a secondary cause.

Responding to Magnus on his Outkick the Coverage blog, Clay Travis registered disagreement with the programming executive’s view.

“Remember that ESPN gave Caitlyn Jenner an ESPY for courage, treated Michael Sam as a modern day Jackie Robinson and has lauded Colin Kaepernick as a modern day Nelson Mandela for his anthem protest. Those are all incredibly liberal positions endorsed by the network. And to rebut that assertion they offer, what? The fact that Hank Williams, Jr. is singing, ‘Are you ready for some football,’ for two minutes 15 times a week? Nope, not buying it. ESPN is a liberal network. This is a fact. As is clearly demonstrated by their programming.”

ESPN rehires Hank Williams Jr. for Monday Night Football, refuting claim of liberal bias
[Image by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP Images]

Sports Business Daily also noted that ESPN President John Skipper recently met with employees at the Bristol, Connecticut-based network to provide reassurance that there would be no adverse employment consequences based on politics.

Continued Travis, who describes himself as a radical moderate who has never voted for a Republican for president.

“The reason why the president of ESPN has to meet with employees to ‘let them know that nobody at ESPN will be punished for holding a political viewpoint,’ is because conservatives have already been punished for holding political viewpoints, see Curt Schilling, while liberals are rewarded…The reason why ESPN is having this meeting? Because there are many conservative people at ESPN — many of whom are covertly reading this article at ESPN right now — who are terrified to be outed publicly as conservative.”

ESPN fired MLB analyst Schilling, the former Boston Red Sox star, in April of 2016 for posting an anti-transgender meme to his Facebook page.

The recent demotion of Sage Steele from NBA Countdown in favor of Michelle Beadle also raised eyebrows.

Travis noted that liberal network MSNBC is a sponsor of ESPN SportsCenter and also maintained that he’s not doing the bidding of Fox Sports with his ESPN commentary because he doesn’t actually work for Fox Sports. iHeart Radio, which syndicates his radio show from Nashville, uses the Fox Sports Radio name in a licensing deal.

Watch Clay Travis further discuss the ESPN issue on Periscope below.

[Featured Image by Wade Payne/AP Images]