Last Friday, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro announced that the network won’t televise the national anthem on Monday Night Football in light of the controversy surrounding some players’ decision to kneel during it in protest of inequality.
“We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don’t think that will change this year. Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem. Again, that could change. It’s unpredictable what could happen in the world, but as of now, we’re not.”
ESPN hasn’t historically broadcast the anthem very often during their broadcasts but, of course, that won’t stop dissenters from noticing. Just by mentioning it, you create a false notion that broadcasting the playing the Star-Spangled Banner was something that used to be done all the time. Like clockwork, President Trump continued to beat that drum on Tuesday night, this time calling out ESPN for their decision.
“It was just announced by ESPN that rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful beautiful beautiful national anthem, and defending our flag, they’ve decided they they just won’t broadcast when they play the national anthem. We don’t like that.” “The ESPN thing was terrible.”
Turns out, however, that Trump is going to have a few at least one more NFL broadcast partner to trash. The USA Today’s Tom Schad spoke with reps from CBS, Fox, and NBC to find out what their plans were with the national anthem when it came to their football game telecasts. At least one of them will continue not to show the national anthem while the others likely won’t show it most of the time.
A CBS Sports spokesperson said that they do not plan to televise the playing of the anthem. That lines up with previous years when they didn’t broadcast it either, instead usually sending cameras to the home studio or cutting to commercial. “Consistent with our past practices, we do not plan to show the anthem live. We will be prepared to cover any story that is newsworthy as it develops.” A person familiar with Fox Sports’ plans said the network only plans to show the anthem when the situation calls for it, such as on Veterans Day or Thanksgiving. They also apparently plan on showing it during the playoffs. An NBC Sports spokesperson said that they have yet to determine the strategy for their 19 broadcasts this season. Of course, none of this is going to satisfy the many people who will want to see documented proof of players who stood, knelt, or did something else altogether during the national anthem.
The NFL owners enacted a new policy that required players to stand during the national anthem or remain in the locker room in an attempt to squash the issue, but put that policy on hold after the NFLPA pushed back over vague punishment standards. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going to happen this weekend, but we do know that President Trump and his allies will be keeping a very close eye on the knees of NFL players and where they end up during the Star-Spangled Banner before every game. By all accounts, some players still plan to protest in some form, so whatever the NFL or networks try to do to create distractions from that will likely be meaningless gestures.