Should ESPN Air The NFL National Anthem Protests?

ESPN will not show the national anthem during “Monday Night Football” broadcasts this year, Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president, revealed. Asked by a reporter if he spoke to the NFL about the rule changes and the national anthem and if he would consider “turning the cameras on an athlete that’s kneeling for the anthem,” Pitaro replied, “We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don’t think there’s going to be any change this year. Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem.”

No, this isn’t an ethics quiz, It’s not because I know the answer. ESPN should be airing the anthem and the likely protests they will include, because of the likely protests they will include. That may surprise you, since Ethics Alarms has been unequivocal in its position that the players are paid to play on Sundays, not exploit games for half-baked and incoherent political statements, that they should be made to observe that distinction, and properly criticized and penalized when they do not. That, however, is a different ethics issue than whether a sports news organization that covers a football game is obligated to also cover news-worthy occurrences that happen during that game. It is. Pitaro’s policy is wrong.

He also pointed out that ESPN usually doesn’t broadcast the anthem. Neither do major league baseball broadcasts unless something or someone special is involved, for the same reason: they sell advertising time instead. Why should the TV audience be able to participate in a brief ritual to honor their nation (which was never that great, as Governor Cuomo reminded us) when there is  money to be made? I miss the anthem—my dad sometimes sang it, horribly off-key because he was tone deaf, right in our living room, drowning out Whitney Houston or the Marine Band as he did—but since it’s always the same music, the decision is defensible although I disagree with it.

Correction, though: it was always the same, until the Kaepernick Klones started using it to grandstand against the nation, or its police, or the President, or something. Then the anthem ritual became news, welcome or not. Which teams and players were kneeling? Were they all black, or were their white team mates supporting them? Was some other gesture than kneeling being used? How did the crowd react? These questions are now clearly part of the analysis of the game, because the news reporting on the game will include then, and have every single time such protests have occurred since Kaepernick first instituted his incoherent protest.

Where once ESPN’s decision to stiff the anthem was justifiable on the grounds that it was a routine part of the pre-game that held no news or sports reporting value, that reasoning no longer holds. Now avoiding the anthem is effectively political censorship and an abdication of ESPN’s duty to report newsworthy events that occur in front of its cameras. It has a duty to its audience to cover the whole game, not just the parts that the audience expects to see. The fact that the anthem is part of the game is why the protests are inappropriate and annoying; it is also why, if they are occurring, the audience has a right to know about them, irritating or not.

We know how ESPN is thinking, right? Ratings for the NFL have fallen since players have begun falling to their knees, so the idea is to redact this feature from the broadcast. This is no more justifiable, however, than not showing the at-bats of players like Robinson Cano in their MLB broadcasts, because many viewers, like me, find the presence of steroid cheats on the field nauseating. When Cano is part of the game, he needs to be in the  broadcast. Controversial, ill-considered, intrusive and divisive protests are now also part of the game, as long as the NFL allows them to continue. Too bad it hurts your ratings, Jimmy.

You have to show the good with the bad.

24 thoughts on “Should ESPN Air The NFL National Anthem Protests?

  1. First; me and sports…
    There is too much emphasis put on professional sport in the USA. I don’t give a rats-ass about professional sports especially football, they don’t get any support from me, I don’t watch any of it, not even the sports on the news, I rarely read anything about it, it’s even rare that you’ll find be commenting on it here on EA, I won’t knowingly spend a dime on anything related to it, I don’t support professional sports in any way shape or form and I’m not going to waste my brain on it. But that’s just my humble opinion and there is a whole lot more to the world than my relatively insignificant individual opinion.

    On one side of the coin…
    As for ESPN or any other network not covering relevant sports news; yes kneeling during the Anthem is sports news because those dumbasses want their social justice warrior idiocy to be news, it should be covered and shame on any network that doesn’t cover it in their sports news.

    On the other side of the coin…
    Plastering the idiocy of these ignorant social justice warriors in the news enables their nonsense.

    In conclusion…
    “I choose to make every effort not to enable what I consider bad behavior”, for this reason, and this reason only, I agree with the choice of ESPN.

    • Glad you worked that out.

      Are you fine with amateur sports, by the way, and if so, would you include the Olympics in that category?

      • You include the Olympics in the realm of amateur sports? I sure as heckfire don’t! Up my way, the only amateur sports team of record is the Chicago bares.

        It’s been ding nigh half a century since the Carlos-n-Smith Fists-Heard-‘Round-The-World episode.

        At the ripe old age of 13, all I processed was what I was hearing: arrogant/spoiled/uppity/unappreciative. I feel far differently now.

        It had a ripple affect on predominantly Black Milwaukee High School BB games several months later when attendees/students/players raised their fists during the playing of the anthem, which WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) rules required before athletic events.

        It became a HUGE distraction, but the WIAA figured out an acceptable end around: games started @07:00 p.m., so the anthem was played ~ 05:30 p.m., and heard only by the custodial staff setting things up.

        • You include the Olympics in the realm of amateur sports? No, I don’t. That’s why I asked. I remember when it was, though. I had known some of the ice skaters who died in the plane crash in Belgium in ’61 (I used to watch them practice out at the Broadmoor ice rink: their moms were the pros; they just wanted to skate), and assisted coach Bob Beatty with the some of the publicity (mostly putting the dampers down) for the U.S. Ski team until ’63 when he moved the office to Denver. The jumpers were crazed though — they once disappeared off the radar for, I think, two weeks after the Nordic tournament in Poland in 1962. Turns out they made a boozy after-hours treaty with some Soviet competitors who invited them along on the rest of their tour, going first to Finland and then, abracadabra . . . . behind the Iron Curtain. When they were finally contacted by a very complicated telephone connection with multiple operators and translators between the US and Moscow, they said they were busy improving international relations and would come home as soon as the tournament schedule was completed. Which they did. I never heard another word about it but there must have been mild, if any, recriminations with the idiots-cum-heroes since several of their names turned up on the Olympic team two years later.

          Outlaws that they were, the idea of treating the national anthem as a personal platform was as totally foreign to the wild skiers as it was to the over-protected skaters; in fact, the honor of standing in front of the stars-and-stripes while the band played that song was the high point of their lives, or pretty close to it. If Colin had been around, chances are he would have been taken into Siberia and left there.

          • ” I remember when it was, though.”

            Ah yes, the halcyon days of yore…& Jim McKay…

            “Turns out they made a boozy after-hours treaty with some Soviet competitors who invited them along on the rest of their tour, going first to Finland and then, abracadabra . . . . behind the Iron Curtain.”

            Whatever the heck THAT was, it wasn’t amateur!

            • If you’re talking about the jump meets “behind the Curtain,” they weren’t advertised and just between the members of the two teams (the Soviets were by far the better at the time; I think they were just showing off and the Americans were either just good sports about it or interested in learning something). The tour itself was around small villages that had, they said during one of the phone calls, “great hills . . . with rope tows.” [rope tows? I remember nearly pulling my shoulders out of their sockets on a ‘baby’ hill in the 40s: no wonder they were in such good shape] They’d call it “just messin’,” these days, except that all of them would probably have more political savvy in the first place. Either way, no accident, no Incident, and I believe they came back under the radar through Finland. Thanks (you and Zoltar) for bringing back the memory.

      • PennAgain,
        I don’t have much of a problem with amature sports in general, although College sports are rapidly being completely stripped of any amateur status they once had, I don’t watch college football anymore, college basketball sometimes. Olympics are kinda sorta “supposed” to be amateur but I think that’s pretty much a thing of the past in modern Olympics; I haven’t supported the Olympics for quite a while now.

        • Zoltar, sorry I didn’t see your entry, but I think my response to you is up under Paul’s. Your remarks triggered some great memories of a part time office/newsletter-writing job I held almost 60 years ago. Thanks for that. All in all, I agree with you about the Olympics, not least because 2020 will see the entry of baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing in competition . . . and I never could get past synchronized swimming. This reminds me of the kindergarten “a prize-for-everybody.”

          • The first “Modern” Olympics (Athens/1896) featured 9 events: track and field, cycling, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, wrestling, fencing, shooting, and tennis.

            ”This reminds me of the kindergarten ‘a prize-for-everybody.’ ”

            Whatsamattah U? You want to s#!tcan Rhythmic Gymnastics:
            individuals or groups of five or more manipulate one or two pieces of apparatus: rope, hoop, ball, clubs, RIBBON, and freehand (no apparatus??

            You monster!

            “I never could get past synchronized swimming.”


    • I support them taking a knee for Trump the Emperor King. How grateful they are to serve in the Empire of the White Man’s will!

      But I am disturbed that he doesn’t appear himself to pat them on the head. That Trump is really a bad person!

  2. ESPN is not a news outlet. It’s a joint venture partner with the NFL. Anything bad for the NFL (anthem protests) is bad for the joint venture. They may very well be responding to an express directive from their joint venture partner. ESPN can’t pretend it’s a news outlet. It’s not. But they will continue with the charade.

  3. Does anybody else think, as I do, that Kaepernick was just too darn lazy to stand for the anthem and then had to come up with an excuse?

    • Cynical John asked, “Does anybody else think, as I do, that Kaepernick was just too darn lazy to stand for the anthem and then had to come up with an excuse?”


      I think Kaepernick has shown us that he’s just another idiotic and illogical social justice warrior intentionally trying to socially divide the United States with their snowflake nonsense. Bunch of damn fools using Salem Witch Trial School of Thought.

      • Yeah. But it could’ve started just because he wasn’t in the mood to stand up that day. They’re moody, those SJWs, always ruminating like a cow chomping cud on a new nasty twist for a word or a thought. And you’re right — they are the very worst form of Puritan, spreading hate and terror wherever they find the weak-minded and credulous.

      • I wouldn’t even go that far. He is, comparatively, untalented and unskilled at the profession. He had 1 lucky season, then his true level of competence emerged…thus, he was trying for one more time in the spotlight. Same as his ‘blackballed’ suit. Of course he was ‘blackballed’…he was more trouble than he was worth.

    • PennAgain wrote, “Does anybody else think, as I do, that Kaepernick was just too darn lazy to stand for the anthem and then had to come up with an excuse?”

      For that line of thinking to be true unsupported assumptions would also have to be true.

    • Kaepernick had that one surprising season (like one of that infinite group of monkeys at typewriters punching out King Lear) and some thought it was the beginning of Montana II. The following seasons saw him begin to perform at moderate sandlot level and his remaining a contracted player was no longer guaranteed. He needed some kind of gimmick to keep from being cut; the protest route gave him cover to claim his loss of job was political, not performance.
      Having an America-hating Muslim girlfriend whispering in his ear did not help him make the right decision….

      In general, NFL players are not renowned for their mental skills. Thinking a SJW protest is “cool” fits right in.

      I am 3-years NFL clean – I should get a coin or something – so recent events in this area are not on my radar. But I do get a lot more stuff done on Sunday now…

  4. Jack, would the same rationale apply to fans who run on the field?

    My understanding is both football and baseball cut the cameras when that happens, so as not to encourage copy-cats. Are they wrong to do that?

    Regardless of that question, the same rationale could apply: ignore the protests and the show-boaters will stop jumping in


  5. I never cared much for NFL football and the genetic celebrities that play it. I think that these disrespectful overpaid jerks who persist on kneeling while the anthem is being played should have their moronic protests aired by ESPN. Maybe some of the advertisers will pull their ads and fans will tune out. Good riddance NFL! Too bad it will hurt the players that don’t kneel.

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