Trump draws battle line with ESPN over national anthem

U.S. President Donald Trump has urged his supporters to sign a petition to pressure ESPN to show the national anthem during “Monday Night Football” broadcasts.

In an email sent on behalf of the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, Trump called the network’s announcement last week a “spineless surrender to the politically correct liberal mob.”

“Just after we heard a slitting governor trash America, ESPN has now decided it will no longer play the National Anthem before Monday Night Football,” the email read.

“If ‘America’ is too offensive for anyone in our country, then what are they doing in America?”

The email appears to reference New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s remark earlier this month during a bill signing, in which he declared, “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”

A spokesperson for Cuomo walked back the comments shortly after, saying “the Governor believes America is great and that her full greatness will be fully realised when every man, woman, and child has full equality.”

The Trump email concluded by saying, “I was the first person to sign this petition. Now I need you to follow my lead and be the second.”

Speaking to reporters during ESPN’s annual football media day, Jimmy Pitaro, the network’s president, said the national anthem would not be showed, before acknowledging, “there could be changes.”

“It’s somewhat unpredictable what’s going to happen in the world but as of now our plan now is to not broadcast the anthem; we have communicated that back to the NFL.

“They have not asked but we proactively just as a courtesy and as good partners let them know what our plans are,” Pitaro said.

Trump, who has been at the center of the national anthem controversy since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016-17 NFL season in opposition to police brutality, used his time on stage Tuesday night at a rally in West Virginia to condemn ESPN’s decision as “terrible.”

“While the players are kneeling, you’re all proudly standing for our national anthem,” Trump told the crowd.

The NFL announced in May that teams and league personnel who do not “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem” would be fined.

However, the policy was put on hold as the league and its players association negotiated the strategy.

ESPN did not air the national anthem during last season’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasts, a similar approach that CBS has taken in the past and plans to do so this season, according to the USA Today Sports.

FOX plans to only show the anthem during “special broadcasts” such as Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving and during the playoffs, while NBC Sports broadcasts plans are still undetermined.

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