Entertainment

ESPN Will Not Air the National Anthem on Monday Night Football

This is likely another downward step for the sports network, as its president tells the press, 'We want to be in business with the NFL'

The ESPN network has decided not to air the singing or playing of the national anthem during its “Monday Night Football” broadcasts this season, according to an announcement from Jimmy Pitaro, the company’s president.

Pitaro made the announcement on Friday at ESPN’s annual football media day.

When a reporter asked Pitaro if he had spoken to the NFL about the rule changes this year regarding the national anthem and if he would consider “turning the cameras on an athlete that’s kneeling for the anthem,” Pitaro responded, “We generally have not broadcasted the anthem, and I don’t think there’s going to be any change this year. Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem.”

“Again, there could be changes,” he added. “It’s somewhat unpredictable what’s going to happen in the world, but as of now our plan now is to not broadcast the anthem. We have communicated that back to the NFL. They have not asked but we proactively just as a courtesy and as good partners let them know what our plans are.”

Last year, the network showed the national anthem on its “Monday Night Football” broadcast three times: after Hurricane Harvey, after the Las Vegas massacre, and after President Donald Trump’s remarks about players’ kneeling for the national anthem at a Luther Strange rally in Alabama. Most weeks, the network did not air it.

ESPN likely will not broadcast the anthem now because this marks the third straight season that NFL players have knelt or otherwise protested during the national anthem. While the league had initially mandated in May that players stand for it this season, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance.

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Now fans are not sure how players will be punished if they don’t follow the new rules.

It may come as a surprise to some that ESPN won’t be focusing on protests during game days given its recent history in politics. For example, the network hired anti-Trumper Keith Olbermann earlier this year; employee Jemele Hill called President Trump a “white supremacist” last year; the network fired Curt Schilling over his conservative beliefs in 2016; and ESPN even gave Caitlyn Jenner an “Arthur Ashe Courage Award” in 2015.

Even so, Pitaro told reporters ESPN does not have a political agenda and simply covers things that it deems “newsworthy.”

Pitaro added, “We are a sports media company. We are always going to cover the intersection between sports and politics.”

“We are the place of record for sports when something happens. When the Eagles are disinvited to the White House, we are going to cover that,” he continued. “When someone takes a knee and we think it’s newsworthy, we’re going to cover it. But we have to be the place of record.”

When selfish athletes and a spineless sports league favor political statements over sports and entertainment — that’s a problem.

He also said he was not concerned about losing a contract with the NFL: “We want to be in business with the NFL, and I believe they want to be in business with us. We’re optimistic about not just about the next four years but for the long-term partnership.”

It’s possible ESPN changes its mind on showing the anthem; its policy last year, after all, was inconsistent. Sports fans might just enjoy watching games on this network again if it keep things apolitical.

However, when selfish athletes and a spineless sports league favor political statements over sports and entertainment — that’s a problem.

To see more on the continuing national anthem protests in the NFL, watch the video below:

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.

Tom Joyce
meet the author

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

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