ESPN will avoid the fallout from protesters kneeling during the national anthem this season by not broadcasting it before Monday Night Football games.
“We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don’t think that will change this year,” ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said Friday, Axios reported. “Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem.”
“Again, there could be changes. It’s somewhat unpredictable what’s going to happen in the world but as of now our plan now is to not broadcast the anthem,” he continued. “We have communicated that back to the NFL. They have not asked but we proactively just as a courtesy and as good partners let them know what our plans are.”
The move comes after a now years-long controversy set off by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled during the national anthem in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Donald Trump often railed against the protests as a candidate and has continued to do so into his presidency.
ESPN largely avoided broadcasting the national anthem during last season’s “Monday Night Football” as well, only airing it on three occasions: after the Last Vegas massacre, Hurricane Harvey, and Trump’s comments on the protests.
Following a reporter’s question about the characterization of ESPN, Pitaro bristled at the notion that the sports network is a political organization.
“It’s not our job to cover politics, purely, but we’ll cover the intersection of sports and politics,” he said. “When something happens, when the Eagles are disinvited from White House, or when someone takes a knee, if we think newsworthy we’re going to cover it.”