Last night’s installment of Monday Night Football featured the Minnesota Vikings against the Chicago Bears. Yet the national narrative has changed such that come Tuesday morning the question being asked around America isn’t “who won” like it used to be, it’s “did the players stand or kneel?”
It’s a situation that has to be causing sleepless nights for the NFL front office and especially television networks who’ve paid billions of dollars for broadcast rights and their contracted advertisers. In 2011 the Entertainment and Sports Network (ESPN) paid $15.2 billion for Monday Night Football broadcast rights through the year 2021 and last night, amid the growing national anthem protest controversy, the cable broadcast giant made its decision on how to handle the situation pretty blatant for all to see.
For last night’s MNF game ESPN completely skipped the national anthem, cutting away to a commercial break prior to the start of the anthem and not coming back to its live coverage until it was over. What’s worse: players sitting it out or a network effectively cancelling the anthem for millions of viewers? If social media is any indicator, the latter.
Twitter exploded as no small number of fans of these two teams from America’s heartland took immediate notice. As told by Independent Journal Review:
“It seems that the NFL and its broadcast partners have also made a decision on the national anthem. It came as a shock to many watching “Monday Night Football” tonight between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings that ESPN flatly decided not to broadcast the singing of the national anthem at all.
Watching the broadcast of the pregame, ESPN cut to a commercial break during the time when the anthem would be sung and returned as the kickoff was beginning. Fans of both teams wondered in disbelief if their eyes had deceived them and if this was the final result of the anthem protest: that the national anthem would simply not be shown any longer on television:
No national anthem on the bears game tonight wtf
— Ryan Killinger (@killingerryanm) October 10, 2017
@NFL You think you have answer by not showing Anthem. This will not cut it. I have called my congressmen & told them do not pay my taxes 2 u
— Eddie (@Satch7Eddie) October 10, 2017
So MNF didn't show the National Anthem either? No @NFL games for me this week.
— dustin cary (@dustincary) October 10, 2017
They didn't show it. Avoided the issue pre-game and then went to kick off. No Anthem. pic.twitter.com/tQp3bHduYA
— Greg Gorman (@gorman_greg) October 10, 2017
F $$$ NFL! ! You too embarrass showing your disrespectful players for not standing up for the National Anthem on National Television!😣😶
— Pamela (@Pamela70589410) October 10, 2017
None of the social media accounts for the Bears, Vikings, NFL or ESPN showed or shared the anthem either.”
Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Due to early lax control over its players/employees, the NFL and its broadcast partners now find themselves firmly between a rock and a very hard place. If they show the anthem and players are kneeling, fans become incensed, blow up social media, have a fit and write off viewing. If they attempt to avoid the backlash by simply not broadcasting the anthem, fans become incensed, blow up social media, have a fit and write off viewing.
Congratulations NFL. You’ve done this to yourselves.
[NOTE: This article was written by Derrick Wilburn, Founder and Chairman of the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, and a speaker, author, columnist and analyst for multiple print and broadcast media outlets. Follow him on Facebook and at RMBlackConservatives.com.]