ESPN won't air anthem before 'Monday Night Football' games, returning to prior practice

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, shown here in 2014, said ESPN will not show the anthem during “Monday Night Football” unless something newsworthy happens. (AP)

New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said on Friday that the network will not show the national anthem during “Monday Night Football” broadcasts, which is a return to standard operating procedure and a recognition of fans’ desires.

‘Our fans like the game’

Via reporter Sara Fischer, Pitaro said it isn’t a hard-and-fast decision.

ESPN is not a political organization,” he said. “It’s not our job to cover politics, purely, but we’ll cover the intersection of sports and politics. When something happens, when the Eagles are disinvited from the White House, when someone takes a knee, when we think it’s newsworthy we’re going to cover it.”

ESPN senior vice president Stephanie Druley said, “We’ve seen the data from our fans that they like the game and that’s what they want. So that’s where we’ll keep our focus.”

Pitaro communicated the news to the NFL “as courtesy and good partners,” according to Fischer.

ESPN showed the anthem three times last season.

‘We want to be in business with the NFL’

ESPN’s deal with the NFL to air “MNF” runs through 2021, and the network is paying an astounding $1.9 billion per season for the right to air just 16 regular-season games and one wild-card playoff game.

Despite the price tag, Pitaro signaled that he doesn’t want that relationship to end.

We want to be in business with the NFL and I believe they want to be in business with us,” he said. “We’re optimistic about not just the next four years but for the long-term partnership.”

“MNF” averaged 10.76 million viewers a week last season, down from 11.4 million viewers per week in 2016.

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