ESPN Refuses To Broadcast National Anthem Before 'Monday Night Football'


For what will be the third NFL season in a row, protests by players during the playing of the national anthem ahead of kickoff will occur again, despite great outcry from fans over the past two years for players to please leave their politics out of the game.

Though many on the left will deny the correlation, there has been a notable decline in attendance and TV ratings for NFL games over the past two years, and should the protests continue unabated — kneeling or raising a fist while the anthem is played — that trend will likely continue.

Prominent cable sports network ESPN hopes they can avoid that controversy altogether, not by encouraging players to stand respectfully for the anthem — as a majority of fans would prefer — but by skipping the anthem completely in their broadcasts of “Monday Night Football” this year.

According to the Los Angeles Times, that news came directly from ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro during remarks to the media on Friday at ESPN Football Media Day.

“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,” Pitaro informed the gathered reporters.

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“Again that could change. It’s unpredictable what could happen in the world but as of now, we’re not,” he continued.

“We have communicated that back to the NFL. They have not asked, but as courtesy and good partners we have let them know what our plans are,” Pitaro added.

In prior years, ESPN did feature the playing of the national anthem as part of their broadcast of NFL games, but decided to stop doing last season — with a handful of exceptions — ostensibly to grant more broadcast to a discussion of the game, but in reality to try and avoid the growing controversy and politicization of the protests.

That politicization, or more accurately the growing perception among some that ESPN has transformed into a “political organization,” has seemingly rubbed Pitaro the wrong way, and he sought to explain how inaccurate that perception was when asked by reporters, according to Fox News.

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“That we’re a political organization because we are not. We are a sports media company. We are always going to cover the intersection between sports and politics,” stated Pitaro, and added that if political incidents during sporting events were deemed “newsworthy,” they would receive coverage.

“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. 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,” he said.

It was initially thought that the national anthem protests wouldn’t be an issue again this season, as the NFL introduced a new rule during the offseason which requires all players to either stand respectfully for the anthem or remain in the locker room until it is complete.

However, the NFL Players’ Association filed a grievance against the new rule and the league buckled and placed it on hold. It is unclear at this time if the two sides will reach an agreeable solution with regard to the anthem protest issue in time for the official start of the season on Sept. 6, according to USA Today.

Thus, we can expect to see players once again taking a knee or raising a fist during the anthem, purportedly in protest of police brutality toward minorities and racial inequities in society, even as a majority of fans have made it abundantly clear that they view the protests as offensive and disrespectful toward the flag, the military members who’ve fought for the flag and the nation for which the flag flies.

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That is, unless one is watching ESPN’s broadcast of “Monday Night Football,” in which case you won’t see the protests during the playing of the anthem, since they won’t broadcast the anthem at all, though we suspect they’ll figure out a way to still feature the handful of “newsworthy” protests later without having also shown the dozens of other players who patriotically stood respectfully while the anthem played.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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