The usually light-hearted, goofy NFL pregame shows had a stronger topic to discuss Sunday. Networks regularly go to commercial break moments before kickoff, but this time, the cameras remained live for a little longer.
Friday night, at a rally in Alabama, President Trump said any “son of a bitch players” that opt to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest should be fired. The Presidents insensitive comments toward the NFL and its players made the anthem must see TV Sunday.
CBS Sports chairman and executive producer of the NFL Today, Sean McManus told USA Today, they decided to show the anthem live in all markets and to give the controversy two segments on the pregame show. NBC and FOX both did the same.
A year ago, one NFL player knelt during the national anthem, last week six players knelt during the anthem, this week a near 200 players from all backgrounds protested the anthem. Many team owners, some of whom were supporters of President Trump during his campaign, spoke out prior to Sunday’s games and stood with players during the anthem.
President Trump’s words were a hot topic on CBS, FOX, ESPN and the NFL Network leading to strong statements from their on-air personalities. President Trump supporter and ESPN analyst Rex Ryan said, “calling our players S.O.Bs and that kind of stuff, that is not the men that I know. The men I know in the locker room, I am proud to be associated with them.” Charles Woodson said on ESPN, “we want the flag to cover all of us.” CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher expressed “we can be united but we can think differently.”
Pregame shows for week 3 of the 2017 NFL season were among the most compelling we’ve seen in NFL history. Networks showed the anthem in its entirety, with cameras scanning the field displaying players from both teams whether they were standing, kneeling, fists in the air, or arms interlocked. Controversy garners attention and regardless of your position on the matter, it was a powerful, attention grabbing day for the country’s most popular sport.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.