“Monday Night Football” returns on Sept. 14 when the New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans won’t be allowed to attend the game at MetLife Stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic. Turns out Hank Williams Jr. will miss the game as well.
Sports Business Daily reports ESPN is dumping Williams’ anthem “All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night” because it “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. … 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.
Maybe a song from a Black Lives Matter march?
Williams’ “All My Rowdy Fans” was first used on “Monday Night Football” by ABC in 1989. ESPN stopped using it in 2011 after Williams compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The Worldwide Leader resumed using the song in 2017.
The music is just one of many changes for “Monday Night Football” in 2020. Below is ESPN’s press release with a rundown of what’s new this season:
ESPN’s 2020 Monday Night Football commentator team will feature Steve Levy on play-by-play with Brian Griese and Louis Riddick as analysts, formulating a trio that boasts more than 45 years of broadcasting experience at ESPN. The telecast will also feature Emmy-winning reporter Lisa Salters returning for her ninth season, and officiating analyst John Parry back for his second season.
ESPN’s new NFL commentating team will begin the season with the Tennessee Titans at the Denver Broncos on Monday, Sept. 14 (10:15 p.m. ET), the second game of ESPN’s annual Week 1 doubleheader. The following two weeks, ESPN’s MNF schedule features the Las Vegas Raiders’ first home game at Allegiant Stadium featuring Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (Week 2) and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and the champion Kansas City Chiefs traveling to NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens (Week 3). Multiple appearances by six-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Weeks 8 and 11) are among the highlights throughout the season. The full schedule is available here.
Levy, Griese and Riddick Add to Extensive, Established Careers
Levy assumes the MNF role in his 28th year with ESPN, already entrenched as one of the network’s longest-tenured and most popular personalities. For Griese and Riddick, together their experience as television analysts is approaching 20 years and the new assignment follows outstanding success both playing in and covering the NFL.
After Levy established himself as a polished studio host during his first two years at ESPN, in 1995 his responsibilities expanded and the SportsCenter anchor began calling NHL games, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. He would continue as one of ESPN’s lead NHL play-by-play voice for a decade and added college football games to his repertoire during that time (1999-2002), a role he resumed in 2016.
Griese, a former Pro Bowl quarterback and Super Bowl Champion, joined ESPN in 2009 and immediately began calling high-profile college football games and contributing to multiple studio shows, a role he continued through last season. Griese’s 11-year playing career concluded in 2008 with a winning record, 119 touchdown passes and nearly 20,000 passing yards.
Riddick, a former defensive back and front office executive, joined ESPN in 2013 and is a trusted voice for NFL fans across ESPN shows and platforms. He is a signature member of ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft and the NFL Scouting Combine, has appeared on Monday Night Countdown, and annually is part of ESPN’s Super Bowl week programming. Last season, he added a college football game assignment to his weekly NFL studio role. Following his playing career (1992-98), he transitioned into the front office, working for both the Washington Football Team (2001-07) and the Philadelphia Eagles (2008-13), starting in both organizations as a scout before rising to both teams’ director of pro personnel.
Levy, Griese and Riddick to Grow Monday Night Football Experience
For Levy, Griese and Riddick, the 2020 MNF opener will be their second consecutive year as a team to call a MNF game. The trio worked together during ESPN’s signature Week 1 doubleheader, broadcastinglast year’s Raiders-Broncos matchup. For Riddick, last season’s opener in the booth commenced a season-long campaign with MNF as a regular on the main set of Monday Night Countdown and a staple on MNF halftime and postgame shows.
Levy’s play-by-play career resumed on a regular basis in 2016, as he teamed with Griese to broadcast signature college football games on ABC and ESPN. Inclusive of last year’s MNF game, Levy and Griese have called more than 60 games together over the past four seasons, concluding each season with a New Year’s Six bowl game on television and a College Football Playoff Semifinal on ESPN Radio. Their existing comradery extends into the NFL beyond last season’s MNF opener, as the pair called Broncos preseason games, locally in Denver, in both 2018 and 2019. In addition to the aforementioned NFL commentating appearances, Griese also announced the 2018 MNF doubleheader with Beth Mowins.
“Steve, Brian and Louis are trusted voices of the NFL whose knowledge and love of football connects with fans,” said Connor Schell, ESPN Executive Vice President, Content. “We are thrilled that they will join Lisa Salters to make up our new Monday Night Football team and share their passion and insight with football fans in what promises to be a great broadcast each week.”
Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit Make NFL Debut in Week 1
Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s leading college football broadcasting team, will make their NFL debut when they call the first game of the season-opening MNF doubleheader, featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers at the New York Giants (7 p.m.). Fowler and Herbstreit have worked together each college football season since 1996, beginning on College GameDay Built by the Home Depot (1996-2014) and then in the booth, beginning with Thursday Night Football and then reuniting for their current assignment, ABC’s Saturday Night Football, which they began together in 2014. Their regular weekly assignment leads into the postseason which includes a College Football Playoff Semifinal and the College Football Playoff National Championship. They are the only broadcast team to call the national championship game in the CFP era.
Herbstreit was honored with the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Event Analyst this month, his second time earning the recognition in three years (2018). Inclusive of his three Sports Emmys for Outstanding Studio Analyst (2010, ’11, and ’19) for his work on College GameDay, Herbstreit has five individual Sports Emmys, making him the most honored commentator in ESPN history. For Fowler, College GameDay received five Sports Emmys for Outstanding Studio Show Weekly during his tenure as host and he also received multiple Sports Emmys for his work on SportsCentury.
“Chris and Kirk are commentators at the top of their game and have thrilled college football fans for many years,” said Schell. “We are looking to add new opportunities to their expansive portfolios and are confident that NFL fans will be just as excited to hear one of the most prolific broadcasting duos on Monday Night Football.
Coordinating Producer Steve Ackels and Producer Phil Dean Join MNF
In addition to the new booth, ESPN senior coordinating producer Steve Ackels has added MNF to his production responsibilities, which also includes oversight of live college football games across ESPN networks. Ackels will work with new MNF producer Phil Dean and second-year director Jimmy Platt to lead the MNF production team.
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