ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro announced the change during a press event on Friday, adding that exceptions could be made throughout the season. Until further notice, though, the anthem will not be shown during MNF as it has been in the past.
The announcement comes amid ongoing controversy regarding NFL players’ decision to protest the national anthem and, by extension, continued systemic racism against people of color in the United States. The protests began in 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the song. Hundreds of pro football players followed suit, kicking off an intense national debate about whether the players’ behavior was disrespectful.
President Trump has weighed in on the topic numerous times, urging NFL team owners to fire any players who protest the anthem. In May, the NFL passed a policy that gives any players who want to protest the option to stay in the locker room during the anthem, or be fined if they continue to protest on the field. Many players, though, have still opted to kneel on the field regardless of a potential punishment.
Monday Night Football has waffled on this topic before: On Oct. 2, 2017, ESPN said the anthem would not be aired during that evening’s game, only to reverse the decision hours later and air the song during the broadcast instead.
Season 49 of Monday Night Football kicks off Sept. 10. What do you make of ESPN’s decision not to air the national anthem?