KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Amid protests and national debate, ESPN has decided not to air the national anthem ahead of the primetime Monday Night Football matchup between Washington and Kansas City, a network spokesperson told Sporting News.
It's not typical for networks to show the flag or anthem ceremonies during regular season game broadcasts, but Week 3 was of particular viewer interest.
Tweets and public comment on the issue from President Trump inflamed an already divisive issue, prompting more than 130 athletes to kneel or otherwise protest during the national anthem. Multiple teams decided to stay off the field entirely until the song was over.
At an Alabama rally prior to the week's slate of games, Trump provided his own ideas for how NFL owners should respond to the protesting players.
"Get that son of a b**** off the field right now," the President suggested owners say. "He's fired. ... He's fired!"
Locally, Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt sent a statement saying he believes “in honoring the American flag and supporting all of those whose sacrifices protect the many freedoms we have in this country, including the right to have differences of opinions.”
Also during Week 3, the NFL dusted off a one-minute ad produced for the Super Bowl earlier in the year, just a few weeks after Trump's inauguration. According to the league, the ad was made to "demonstrate the power of football to bring people together."
Last year, Colin Kaepernick -- formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, but currently without a team -- drew national attention for refusing to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to kickoff. He originally sat on the bench during the song, but opted to kneel after a dialogue with a former Navy Seal who suggested kneeling as a more respectful alternative.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016.
NFL players were not required to be on the field for the anthem until 2009, around the same time the league was involved in multi-million dollar "paid patriotism" deals with the Department of Defense, per a Senate report highlighting the issue.