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Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images

ESPN will not be broadcasting the national anthem before Monday Night Football games this year, President Jimmy Pitaro told reporters Friday.

Why it matters: The singing of the national anthem became politicized two years ago when then-backup San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem in protest of the mistreatment of people of color in the United States. The issue has since been further dragged into politics due to President Trump's interest in the subject.

"We generally have not broadcasted the anthem and I don't think that will change this year. Our plan going into this year is to not broadcast the anthem."
— Jimmy Pitaro, President of ESPN

Pitaro says ESPN is not a political organization and that it will only cover political topics as they pertain to sports coverage and storytelling.

"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, or when someone takes a knee, if we think it's newsworthy, we're going to cover it."
— Pitaro

The bigger picture: ESPN and other broadcasters have had to grapple with whether or not they will showcase the national anthem in light of the news events around the tradition. Speaking to reporters, ESPN Senior Vice President for Event & Studio Production Stephanie Druley says "this has always been our standing operating procedure."

  • She explained the network only aired the anthem three times last year when athletes were protesting because of simultaneous news events — a moment of silence for a hurricane, a moment of silence for the Las Vegas shooting and at the Dallas vs. Arizona game.

Asked about the policy, the Monday Night Football anchors said they agreed that it's a tough subject and should be covered if it's newsworthy.

  • Joe Tessitore: "If it's newsworthy and something to cover, well cover it."
  • Jason Witten: "Being a player last year it was a challenging time ... As a team going through that it wasn't easy to go through it."

Go deeper: The history of singing the national anthem before NFL games

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.