ESPN has elected not to broadcast coverage of the National Anthem prior to Monday Night Football games this year as the NFL and the NFLPA continue their dialogue regarding players who choose to kneel during the anthem.
According to reporter Sara Fischer, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro made the announcement today saying that, while things could change, the current plan is not to air the anthem. Pitaro also noted that while ESPN is "not a political organization," if something newsworthy does take place during the anthem he expects it to be covered.
"ESPN is NOT a political organization. It's not our job to politics, purely, but we'll cover the intersection of sports & politics. "When something happens, when Eagles disinvited from White House, when someone takes a knee, if we think newsworthy were going to cover it," said Pitaro, according to Fischer.
The first ESPN Monday Night Football broadcast of the 2018-19 NFL season will be a double-header on September 10. The first game, kicking off at 7:10pm ET, features the Detroit Lions hosting the New York Jets, while the late-night game, airing at 10:20pm ET, is a matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders.
Back in May, the NFL decided that teams would be fined if players didn't stand during the national anthem while on the field, and that each team is free to develop their own rules regarding players and personnel who protest on the field during the national anthem. The policy was challenged last month in a grievance by the players' union, and the two sides have "come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA's grievance and on the NFL's anthem policy."