On Friday, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro announced the network won’t be airing the national anthem before Monday Night Football games this fall.
Sara Fischer of Axios reported Pitaro as saying, “We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don’t think that will change this year. Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem…again that could change. It’s unpredictable what could happen in the world but as of now, we’re not. We have communicated that back to the NFL. They have not asked but as courtesy and good partners we have let them know what our plans are.”
Simply put, it’s not personal. It’s business.
“We want to be in business with the NFL and I believe they want to be in business with us,” Pitaro continued, per Fischer. “We’re optimistic about not just the next four years but for the long-term partnership.”
Pitaro continued by making it clear that “ESPN is NOT a political organization,” which is something the network has been adamant recently as some of its top personalities have run into trouble for making their political beliefs known on certain topics.
“It’s not our job to [get into] politics, purely, but we’ll cover the intersection of sports and politics. When something happens, when Eagles [were] disinvited from the White House, when someone takes a knee, if we think it’s newsworthy we’re going to cover it.”
It’s no secret that the NFL has struggled with how to approach this ongoing set of protests which occur during the national anthem. Clearly, ESPN is taking the approach that staying out of this issue as much as possible is the best policy for business.
Speaking of business, apparently it’s booming again, as the first ESPN NFL broadcast of the season saw a ratings boost, per Pro Football Talk.