For the second time in the last decade, ESPN is shifting away from Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” as their Monday Night Football introduction. But this time, it’s about a lack of fans in stadiums rather than anything Williams Jr. himself said. In 2011, ESPN and Williams Jr. parted ways after he compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler, but they brought him and his theme song back in 2017. As John Ourand wrote at Sports Business Journal Tuesday, though, this year will see a change to a new version of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up,” with the rationale for the change being about empty or mostly-empty stadiums:
ESPN will not use Hank Williams Jr. for its “Monday Night Football” open this season, as its execs decided that the song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” will not resonate for games that will be contested in mainly empty stadiums. ESPN said it has not made a decision about whether it will bring back the song next season, when full crowds, presumably, will be allowed back. ABC first used the song to open “Monday Night Football” in ’89.
ESPN instead will use the Little Richard song “Rip It Up,” with modern-day instrumentals from a Virginia-based band called Butcher Brown combined with Little Richard’s voice. The open will not show the musicians on-screen; the sound track will be put over game-specific highlights. The singer died earlier this year. ESPN worked with Little Richard’s estate and his label, Concord Records, to come up with the music for the open.
It’s certainly interesting to see this shift away from Williams Jr.’s song, and for the stated rationale for that change being about limited fans in stadiums. We’ll see how this new theme song is received; it’s notable that some past changes here, including an autotuned and guest-heavy version for Williams Jr.’s 2017 return, didn’t go over all that well. We’ll see if this change gets a better reception.