With the 2017-18 NFL season underway, many are wondering how the broadcast networks will cover the expected national anthem protests. Sports Illustrated asked several major broadcasting networks that very question and got some very interesting answers.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch recently asked CBS, NBC, ESPN and Fox what they intend to do during the national anthem protests that are likely to continue as the season develops. Most said they’d show any players refusing to stand for the song, but would not offer much commentary about the incidents.
CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus told Deitsch that his network would “document what is on the field,” but wondered if the protests were still much of a story since they have been going on so long.
Fox Sports Producer Richie Zyontz agreed that the topic is “divisive,” and noted that Fox would show the protests “without dwelling on it.” Zyontz added, though, that with everyone in sports media talking about the protests, “to ignore it would be negligent.”
For his part, the executive producer of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Fred Gaudelli, insisted that his network is obligated to cover it. “But as it relates to being at a football game,” Gaudelli said, “you have to show it and document it, and from there you move on to football. People are protesting, and some of these guys are star players.”
ESPN’s Tim Corrigan, warned that the issue is fraught with highly emotional opinions, saying, “You have to be careful, though. You don’t want to lead people in a path of conversation that is not the right conversation.”
Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing also noted the dangerous waters the protests have entered.
“[A]nthem protests have many firmly entrenched on both sides,” Bucholtz wrote, “and fans from both of those sides will be watching the game, so strong opinions on protests one way or the other during the game broadcast would likely alienate a chunk of the viewing audience.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.