ESPN will not play national anthem before Monday night games, its president says

ESPN will not play national anthem before Monday night games, its president says
The Monday Night Football broadcasting team, including former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, center, works the pre-game show before an NFL football game between the Seahawks and the Buffalo Bills, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) (John Froschauer)

(RNN) – ESPN will not play the national anthem before Monday Night Football Games this season, the president of the network told multiple outlets on Friday.

According to Axios, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said “we generally have not broadcasted the anthem” and that was unlikely to change this year.

The New York Times also reported the network’s plan, adding that ESPN said the NFL didn't pressure it on the decision.

“Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem,” Pitaro said, according to Axios. “Again that could change. It’s unpredictable what could happen in the world but as of now, we’re not.”

Last month the NFL owners and players association released a joint statement announcing they had reached a “standstill agreement” in which no new rules would be issued or enforced while negotiations continued.

“Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation,” that statement said.

In May the owners had announced a new anthem policy for 2018 in which teams would be fined if players knelt on the sideline during the anthem. Under that policy, players would have been allowed to remain in the locker room for the national anthem if they wished.

The players’ union filed a grievance against the policy, leading to last month’s “standstill agreement.”

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest the conditions black Americans face in the U.S. A number of other players have continued the protest the past couple seasons.

It has inspired fierce criticism from President Donald Trump.

Axios reported the ESPN president hoped the network could sidestep the political battle over the issue.

“ESPN is not a political organization,” Pitaro said.

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