Before the season began, the network decided not to show the anthem, with two exceptions. One was the “Monday Night Football” season opener that fell on the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and featured a special tribute at the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium. And then last week, after protests popped up across the country in response to tweets and comments by President Trump, ESPN pivoted to carrying the anthem preceding the Dallas Cowboys’ game against the Arizona Cardinals. Cameras captured Cowboys owner Jerry Jones taking a knee along with coaches and players, then rising and standing with arms linked for the anthem.
Although “MNF” has shown the anthem in previous seasons, the production team decided to make a change this year, even as the idea of protests were looming, to use the time to highlight matchups and story lines, a network source said. The network did not carry the anthem preceding the Sept. 18 game between the Detroit Lions and New York Giants.
ESPN had promised to “do our due diligence” as far as protests and coverage were concerned, producer Jay Rothman said last month, and clearly the change of heart Monday is part of that.
ESPN’s practice is in keeping with those of Fox and CBS, which do not carry the anthem before their 1 p.m. EDT regional telecasts. An exception was made before the games of Week 3, with protests everywhere, by Fox, CBS, NBC, the NFL Network and DirecTV. But on Sunday, Fox reverted back to form, carrying only the anthem (and “God Save the Queen”) before the 9:30 a.m. game in London. The New Orleans Saints took a knee, then rose and linked arms for the anthem as three Miami Dolphins players remained kneeling. Fox came back from commercial as the Saints were getting to their feet, and at halftime it showed video of Saints Coach Sean Payton taking a knee and linking arms with his players.
“As is standard procedure, regionalized coverage of NFL games airing on Fox this Sunday will not show the national anthem live,” Fox had announced in a statement Sunday. “However, our cameras are always rolling, and we will document the response of players and coaches on the field.”
CBS showed the anthem on its regional games, and NBC showed the anthem before the “Sunday Night Football” game between the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.