Sports

Which Networks Will Show the National Anthem in the NFL?

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The Los Angeles Chargers stand attended for the national anthem before the preseason NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 11 in Glendale, Arizona. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A new NFL season begins on Thursday, and with it the debate over the way the league handles the national anthem will retake center stage.

The league has been embroiled in political quicksand since Colin Kaepernick first opted to kneel during the anthem to protest against racial injustice in 2016. The example set by the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was followed by a number of other players, leading to franchise owners to close ranks and President Donald Trump blasting the protesters for disrespecting the flag and the country.

Among the multiple ripple effects the issue has had, one of the most important is the impact on the broadcasters’ policies when it comes to the national anthem.

Last week, Brian Rolapp, the NFL media chief, made clear the ball was firmly in the networks’ collective court when it comes to handling the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

“You’ll have to talk to them,” he told reporters after the NFL's preview season event in Times Square. “It’s their decision about what they do or don’t do. Traditionally, they haven’t really covered the anthem. There’s this perception that it’s always covered, but it’s actually not, other than certain cases, which they decide.”

So, where does each network stand?

ESPN

Last month, ESPN announced it would return to an old company policy of not televising the national anthem before NFL games.

As has been the case since 2006, ESPN will host Monday Night Football this season but it will not broadcast the anthem, which it showed three times last year.

Predictably, the decision irked President Trump, who launched a petition against ESPN’s national anthem policy, describing it as “spineless.”

CBS Sports

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said at the network’s media day for its NFL coverage that the network had no plans to broadcast the playing of the national anthem as part of its NFL coverage, in keeping with its policy in recent years.

CBS, McManus added, will only show the anthem on “special occasions”, such as Thanksgiving, the AFC championship game and the Super Bowl.

FOX Sports

Often praised by Trump for flying the flag for unbiased reporting, the sports branch of Fox has rarely broadcasted the anthem. In fact, its decision to not to show the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" stretches back to October last year, when it announced it would not air any live anthem coverage, except for the game between the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints, which was played in London.

This season, it reportedly plans to show the anthem only on special occasions—such as Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and during the playoffs.

NBC Sports

The network will broadcast this season’s opener on Thursday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons, but is yet to confirm its plans.

In recent years the national anthem has generally not been shown live during NFL broadcasts.