When the NFL chose to transform Football Sunday into #TakeAKnee Sunday, the networks who pay all that money to air those games, chose to show footage of the performance of the national anthem, knowing viewers would want to see how the players responded. But as many viewers noticed during the various broadcasts, while the networks and the news agencies provided ample coverage of the over 200 players who refused to stand for the anthem, they somehow failed to provide much coverage, if at all, of the fans' responses to the anthem kneelers. In fact, it seemed as if it might've been a deliberate choice. And, of course, it was.
One guy who noticed the lack of coverage of the fans — many of whom were utterly outraged at the rampant displays of anti-patriotism, as some of the audio and the strong backlash has revealed —was Sporting News' Michael McCarthy, who talked to some of those behind the scenes and learned that at least one crew was specifically instructed to avoid filming the crowd "to avoid crowd shots in case they showed fans counterprotesting the protests."
"If crowd shots were indeed purposely avoided, it was a wise business decision by the networks not to bite the hand that feeds them their most popular programming, but a weak move from a journalistic standpoint," writes McCarthy. "By covering one of the most significant days in NFL history with rose-colored glasses, the networks cheated viewers. We got an incomplete picture of what really happened in stadiums on Sunday and Monday."
While McCarthy got confirmation from one crew that they indeed were instructed not to film the crowd, CBS insisted that they did not make a coordinated effort to turn a blind eye to the fans' responses. That just happened naturally, or something.
"The anthem was covered by each crew in their own way, with many choosing to stay with what was happening on the field," CBS spokeswoman Jennifer Sabatelle told Sporting News. "There was no directive given to not show the fans."
"No directive," yet somehow almost zero coverage of any of the thousands of outraged fans ...
During NBC's telecast of "Sunday Night Football" in Landover, Md., we got plenty close-up views of Raiders and Redskins sitting or linking arms during the anthem. The fans were strictly in the background.
Fans booing Jets and Dolphins players were loud and clear during CBS's telecast from East Rutherford, N.J. But we never saw them. Instead, we got a lot of field-level shots of linked arms players and saluting police officers.
While some broadcasters did at least admit that there were "some boos," the audience was shielded from the reality of just how much the NFL's embrace of the anti-anthem movement insulted its fans.
Below is a moment that made headlines in part because the mics couldn't help but pick up the deafening boos raining down on the 17 Patriots who refused to stand to show respect for the country:
And it wasn't just the broadcast coverage of the protests; even the photographs taken by the media were almost entirely focused on the players and coaches in an attempt to portray the moment as "unifying" rather than divisive.
For a perfect example, just check out Sports Illustrated's series of photos of the protests, none of which manages to focus on the fans at all, not to mention any of the many counterprotesters.
Same goes with the Denver Post's images from the games, almost all of which are zoomed in tightly on players, and none of which are focused on the crowd.
Well, that's certainly "unity" for you — unity among the networks, news agencies and the league that brings in so much money. As for honest, accurate reporting of the events? Not so much.