Eric Deggans, in a blog entry at the National Sports Journalism Center, says that Hank Williams Jr. has often skirted the boundary between Southern pride and cultural insensitivity before his latest slur against President Barack Obama. Deggans suggests that ESPN acted only after the incident became too embarrassing for officials to ignore.
… In this light, ESPN's initial press release on pulling Williams' theme from the Oct. 3 game — which said they were "extremely disappointed with his comments" — left a lot of wiggle room. Williams compared President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner playing golf together to "Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu."
Was it his invoking of Hitler? The racial and cultural resonance of using such a comparison with a black president and a Jewish prime minister? Williams' unwillingness to back down and erratic behavior during the Fox News interview itself? ("Daily Show" host Jon Stewart later quipped he could "smell the Jack Daniels on his breath from the television.")
Poynter's column tries to address this, saying "ESPN's decision makes sense in light of its policy on political advocacy and how it has handled similar incidents in the past," noting that columnist Jemele Hill and football analyst Lou Holtz had to apologize for invoking Hitler in commentary on air.
Another problem here: ESPN seemed to wait until the comments became a full-blown controversy to act.
Read Eric Deggans' entire blog entry at the National Sports Journalism Center.