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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

Cuomo scandal snares Dems on #MeToo

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images   

The searing sexual harassment allegations made against Gov. Andrew Cuomo are trouble for Democrats far beyond Albany and New York.

Why it matters: They hammered Donald Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape. Pilloried Brett Kavanaugh over Christine Blasey Ford. Defended President Biden when he was accused of inappropriate touching. Now, Democrats have to show whether they walk the "#MeToo" talk.

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.

Border Democrat warns Biden about immigrant fallout

Henry Cuellar (right). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.