Sidestepping Debate, ESPN Won't Show Anthem On Monday Night Football

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The network hasn't aired the playing or singing of the national anthem in the past, but it could change its policy in the future, the network president said.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said on Friday that the network, which airs "Monday Night Football" National Football League games, will not broadcast the singing of the national anthem, largely sidestepping the controversy of showing protesting players during the event.

ESPN hasn’t aired the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in the past, but the announcement by Pitaro is more-or-less to explain that the policy will not be changing in the immediate future.

“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 explained.

The policy could change, he added.

“It's unpredictable what could happen in the world, but as of now, we're not” changing the policy, Pitaro explained. “We have communicated that back to the [league]. They have not asked, but as courtesy and good partners, we have let them know what our plans are.”

The announcement by Pitaro comes as more players have begun protesting, during preseason games, the unfair and inequitable treatment of people of color in America, specifically with regard to how African-Americans are treated by police. Players participating in the protests have kneeled during the anthem, a move that was started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his teammates at the time.

While it has been the policy of ESPN not to air the anthem at all in the past, they ought to do the right thing and air the protests now, providing viewers with a spirited discussion about why players are engaging in them. Many people have a misunderstanding about why the players kneel, seeing the act as an affront against veterans and military personnel rather than what the protests are actually trying to highlight, which is racial injustices in America.

Imagine if ESPN reversed course and decided to show the protests — and imagine if their announcers actually had an honest conversation about them. Doing so would provide a huge service to Americans watching at home and give some added context to what was happening.

Banner/thumbnail image credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

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