Trump Goes After ESPN for Plans to Not Air the National Anthem before Monday Night Football This Season

At a rally in West Virginia on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump criticized ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro's recent announcement that the network would not be televising the national anthem ceremonies before NFL games on Monday nights this season. 

"You’re proud of our country, you’re proud of our history, and unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag," Trump told the crowd of supporters. "It was just announced by ESPN that rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful, beautiful national anthem and defending our flag, they’ve decided that they just won’t broadcast when they play the national anthem. We don’t like that."

ESPN excluding the anthem on Monday nights isn't anything new, though. "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," Pitaro said. "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 [a] courtesy and good partners we have let them know what our plans are."

Trump's comments come as the NFL, football fans, players, and others continue to debate kneeling during the national anthem.

"So while the players are kneeling, some of them, not all of them at all, you’re all proudly standing for our national anthem," Trump told everyone at the rally. 

The president later doubled down on his criticism of ESPN in a campaign email — with "SPINELESS decision" as the subject line — to his supporters. "Just after we heard a sitting governor trash America, ESPN has now decided it will no longer play the National Anthem before Monday Night Football," the email read. "If 'America' is too offensive for anyone in our country, then what are they doing in America?"

He then asked for signatures on a petition he started, which is attempting to persuade the network into airing the anthem. "I'm calling on you to join me in denouncing this SPINELESS surrender to the politically correct liberal mob," the email continued. 

However, ESPN isn't the only network that's planning to not air the national anthem live this season. CBS Sports will take a similar approach, Fox Sports will only show the anthem during special broadcasts (such as Veterans Day), and NBC Sports is undecided. This is typically what these networks have done in past years, though.