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October 2011, Week 2

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'If the South Would Have Won': The NFL and 
Hank Williams Jr.
Dave Zirin
The Nation
October 5, 2011
http://www.thenation.com/blog/163793/if-south-would-have-won-nfl-and-hank-williams-jr

In our segmented, culturally segregated, 5,000-channel
era, the NFL might be the last entertainment product
that tries to be all things to all people. Black or
white; Northerner or Southerner; male, or female: the
NFL wants your passion and wants your money. Last week,
for example, was a nod to the wallets of women
everywhere, as all players were tinted in bright-pink to
"raise breast cancer awareness." The gravity of the
issue didn't stop Cowboys owner Jerry Jones from
displaying his cage-dancing cheerleaders in a more
straightforward display of breast-awareness, hold the
cancer.

The broadcasts are also pointedly diverse as over-
caffeinated talking heads come in all colors. The NFL
and their chief broadcast partner ESPN in particular
wants the disposable income of one particularly thorny
demographic: your right-wing, gun-toting, Palin-loving,
Southern football fans. That's why ESPN inexplicably
hired Rush Limbaugh in 2003 to be part of their NFL pre-
game team. And that's why Bocephus himself, Hank
Williams Jr. has sang the Monday Night Football theme
song for twenty years. But therein lies the NFL's
problem. It's a trap game. Eventually Limbaugh had to
open his mouth, and just as the sun rises in the East,
the bile did spew. He of course spoke out in crudely
racist terms about then-Eagles quarterback Donovan
McNabb, everyone in the ESPN corporate offices reached
for their vapors, and Limbaugh was gone.

Now Hank Williams Jr. has been bounced from singing
about "all [his] rowdy friends" because he appeared on
Fox and Friends and compared Barack Obama to Adolf
Hitler. ESPN issued the following shocked response,
saying, "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."

Hank Williams Jr.'s then put forward a bizarre apology
where he felt the need to say, "Every time the media
brings up the Tea Party it's painted as racist and
extremists-but there's never a backlash-no outrage to
those comparisons." So a Tea Party supporter compares
The Nation's first African-American president to Hitler
and then says it's a double standard to criticize him
because no one gets mad at those who call the Tea Party
racist. I now need more coffee.

The bigger question, Is why was ESPN surprised? This is
Hank Williams Jr. we're talking about, not Amy Grant.
The man brags that he'll never stop "speaking my mind."
Unfortunately, his mind resides somewhere on a
plantation rocking chair. It's not just his past
controversial statements, such as when he sang about
Obama's ""terrorist friends" at a McCain Palin
fundraiser in 2008. The guy actually wrote a song in
1988 about the Civil War called "If the South Would Have
Won." The lyrics are, "If the South would have won we
would have it made.?/?I'd make my supreme court down in
Texas?/?and we wouldn't have no killers getting off
free?/?If they were proven guilty then they would swing
quickly?/?instead of writing' books and smiling' on
TV?/?We'd put Florida on the right track, `cause we'd
take Miami back." (From who? Jews? Cubans? Haitians? Or
will Hank go for the trifecta?) ".I said, if the South
woulda won?/?we would a had it made!/Might even be
better off!" (In a league where 70 percent of the
players are black, 100 percent of the owners are white,
maybe this should be the Monday Night theme song.)

The problem, in other words, isn't Hank Williams Jr.
It's ESPN and the NFL thinking they can stretch the
boundaries of their product to unite racists and anti-
racists; neoconfederates and people who are ready to put
the Stars and Bars in our national rear-view mirror;
Redskins fans and those who find that franchise name
sickening. We are living in times of profound
polarization. If the NFL really wants to cater to the
demographic that loves Hank Williams Jr. and Rush
Limbaugh, they'd be better ordering the Broncos to just
start Tim Tebow.

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