ESPN said Friday it will not air the National Anthem before its Monday Night Football 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," ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told the media, reports Axios.
Pitaro went on to say that ESPN is not a political organization, and will only delve into politics if it is necessary for its sports coverage.
"It's not our job to cover politics, purely, but we'll cover the intersection of sports and politics," Pitaro explained. "When something happens, when the Eagles were disinvited from White House, or when someone takes a knee, if we think newsworthy, we're going to cover it."
ESPN Senior Vice President for Event & Studio Production Stephanie Druley added that the National Anthem was only broadcast three times during the 2017 season — the moments of silence after a hurricane and the Las Vegas shooting, and at the Dallas Cowboys-Arizona Cardinals game when the players for both teams locked arms three days after President Donald Trump's first comments on the protests.
The National Anthem has been a hot topic for the past two years, when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest police brutality and racial injustice during the "Star-Spangled Banner" during the 2016 season.
A few players continued doing it during the 2017 season, leading Trump to suggest those that kneel should be fired for what he believes is disrespecting the flag. During the 2018 preseason, some players have chosen to stand for the anthem, but stay in the locker room tunnels or stay in the locker room.
"The NFL players are at it again — taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their "outrage" at something that most of them are unable to define," Trump tweeted on Aug. 10, after the first preseason games. "They make a fortune doing what they love. Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!"
The NFL season starts on Thursday, Sept. 6. The first MNF games are on Sept. 10, with Jets-Lions and Rams-Raiders.
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