President Trump, speaking at rally in West Virginia, criticized ESPN after the network announced it wouldn’t broadcast the national anthem for its Monday Night Football telecasts.
“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 said. “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.”
New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told reporters on Friday that policy could be subject to change.
“We generally have not broadcasted the anthem, and I don’t think that will change this year,” he said. “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.”
Pitaro also said that if an event was “newsworthy,” the network would cover it.
“We’ve seen the data from our fans that they like the game, and that’s what they want,” said ESPN senior VP of event and studio production Stephanie Druley. “So that’s where we will keep our focus.”
Trump also once again ridiculed “some” players for kneeling.
“So while the players are kneeling, some of them, not all of them at all, you’re all proudly standing for out national anthem,” he told the crowd.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson was the only NFL player who kneeled during the anthem in the second week of the preseason. Fellow Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills kneeled along with Wilson the previous week, but did not travel to the team's exhibition against the Carolina Panthers due to an ankle injury.
In May, NFL owners approved a policy requiring players to either stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room. But the league is currently engaged in discussions with the NFL Players Association about the policy and has said that players who have demonstrated during the preseason will not subject their teams to punishment.
Follow Michael Singer on Twitter @msinger.