ESPN will largely avoid broadcasting the playing of the national anthem during “Monday Night Football,” continuing a practice it has followed in past seasons even as controversy has swirled around that element of NFL games.
“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,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN’s presidevt, speaking to reporters Friday. Broadcast teams will likely make exceptions as news dictates, he added.
Once a rote part of many athletic events, the anthem has become a polarizing aspect of NFL games, as some players choose to kneel to protest treatment of African-Americans in the U.S.
Many sports networks do not regularly broadcast the anthem, but the decision has become politically fraught after President Donald Trump has urged the NFL to clamp down on the practice. Team owners recently said players may stay in the locker room rather than coming on to the field, and threatened fines for taking a knee. Some players continue to protest.
“It’s unpredictable what could happen in the world but as of now, we’re not,” said Pitaro. “We have communicated that back to the NFL. They have not asked, but as a courtesy and as good partners we have let them know what our plans are.”
ESPN televised three national anthems last year, two that took place alongside moments of silence following national tragedies.
Speaking to reporters separately Friday, “Monday Night Football’ producers and on-air anchors said they would cover the anthem whenever it made journalistic sense to do so.