ESPN will not be broadcasting the national anthem during Monday Night Football this season, president Jimmy Pitaro said Friday in a move seen as trying to prevent viewers from seeing players who would choose to peacefully protest against U.S. police killings of Black people by not standing up for the U.S. anthem, a move started by former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.
MNF started including the anthem as a regular part of its broadcasts a few seasons ago but stopped doing so last season other than a select few occasions.
"We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don't think that will change this year," Pitaro told Axios.com. "Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem.
The move comes after the NFL and networks covering the football games were criticized by U.S. President Donald Trump and pro-police and pro-army groups in the country over the protesting players who kneel during the anthem in protest of racism within the police force in the United States.
During his time as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick took a stand to protest racial inequality, injustice and police brutality across the United States by kneeling during the pre-game segments – when the national anthem is played – during the 2016 season.
Fans claimed Kaepernick's actions were disrespectful to the American flag and to members of the armed forces. While Trump referred to the players as 'sons of bitches' during the social media post which called for their immediate dismissal.
In a clear crackdown on the protest, the owners of NFL teams agreed in May on a new policy banning players from kneeling down when the national anthem is played, directly aiming at protests against police brutality and racism.
The policy was then dropped after an uproar by social movements and after some players vowed to continue their protest despite the regulation.
According to the New York Times, In the past, most networks typically went to commercial while the anthem was being played. But in the past two seasons, they have at times showed the anthem because it was newsworthy.