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ESPN to broadcast anthem before 49ers-Rams on MNF

ESPN will broadcast live the playing of the national anthem before its Week 1 game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, Sept. 12, says an ESPN senior executive, though it will likely air live on ESPN2 because of a timing conflict with the NFL game the network is airing earlier that evening.

“Our intent has always been to show the anthem live,” said Mark Gross, ESPN’s senior vice president of production and remote events. “We’ll show the anthem on ESPN2 and then revisit the story on ESPN. We will cover the news story like we cover all news stories.”

The anthem is of unusual interest in this game because of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during its playing before the 49ers’ last two preseason games as a protest of what he believes is a lack of progress at dealing with racial oppression in the United States.

On the 12th, ESPN is already broadcasting a 7:10 p.m. ET game between the Steelers and the Redskins, meaning that game may well still be going on when the anthem is being played before the 10:20 ET start time in San Francisco, especially since the anthem is normally played five to 10 minutes before kickoff.

The buzz around whether ESPN would broadcast the national anthem began Tuesday, when Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman, in response to a question on a media call, said the following:

“The timing is such that, because it's a doubleheader game, we do not cover the anthem. We will not cover the anthem live in the second game, regardless. However, that doesn't mean we couldn't record it and report it. And I think our job, especially with the whole Kaepernick deal, it's our job to document and report the game. And those who are working on the game, if Kaepernick is on the team and chooses to sit again, I'm sure they'll get perspective from Kaepernick, they'll get perspective from Chip Kelly, they'll get perspective from others and report. So that's how we'll handle that in San Francisco.”

But Gross says the plan was always to show it.

Understandably, though, there was some confusion on that point after Rothman’s comment. Pro Football Talk reported Tuesday that ESPN would not show the anthem live and criticized that decision.

It is indeed a good thing that ESPN plans to broadcast the anthem live, whether on ESPN or ESPN2, and that it likely will replay and address it on the main broadcast. There are surely some who will complain that, by likely having the live broadcast on ESPN2, the network is trying to bury the controversy. But if you think cutting into a live game to show something else is a good idea, ask Heidi.

Also, as Rothman pointed out on the same media call that sparked the buzz, there’s the small matter of whether Kaepernick will still be on the 49ers 10 days from now.