All eyes were on Monday Night Football after a weekend of protest by dozens of NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem, and many more who locked arms in solidarity. The demonstrations by the league came after President Donald Trump said team owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who doesn’t respect the American flag by standing.
While ESPN does not always air the singing of the national anthem during its Monday night broadcasts, the network was not about to miss the ratings opportunity this week when “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys took on the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The words “coming up next, our national anthem” have never before carried so much weight.
It was left to ESPN reporter Lisa Salters to put the anthem in context, telling viewers that when Cardinals quarterback Patrick Peterson woke up Saturday morning to Trump’s comments he and another teammate went to their head coach and asked if they could “do something” before tonight’s game.
On the Cowboys side, the entire team, along with owner Jerry Jones, decided to kneel together in the center of the field as “a statement of equality and representation of unity” but not one directed at the national anthem. Arizona fans could be heard booing the Cowboys when they collectively took a knee on the field.
When singer Jordin Sparks performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” with an enormous flag draped across the field, players on both teams locked arms instead of putting their hands over their hearts.
Jones donated $1 million to President Trump's inauguration committee and on last week appeared to denounce players who kneel during the anthem—albeit prior to Trump’s comments. “That’s not the place to do anything but honor the flag and everybody that's given up a little for it,” Jones said in a Sunday interview with Fox Business Network last week.