News and Commentary

ESPN Analyst: NFL Is ‘Injecting Politics’ By Playing National Anthem At Games

Washington, D.C., witnessed a rare exhibition of bipartisanship on Thursday night at the annual baseball game between Republican and Democratic congressional members.

Coming one day after a crazed gunman badly injured Rep. Steve Scalise and three others in a shooting at a practice for the game, some 25,000 people packed into Nationals Stadium. There were chants of “U-S-A!” on a night of unity that featured the leaders of the House and Senate from both parties appearing together to offer soothing words.

The Democrats won but insisted that the trophy stay in Scalise’s office until he returns to work on Capitol Hill. Pretty classy (and kinda’ weird in a city where class is rarely exhibited).

So, miraculously, partisanship took a day off Thursday in the nation’s capital. But not so at ESPN, a sports network that, for some reason, spends a lot of time talking about politics — and taking sides.

ESPN “First Take” co-host Max Kellerman appeared to talk about the NFL (in baseball season, for some reason) and was asked about his reaction to one football player comparing quarterback Colin Kaepernick to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Kellerman said:

They both were asked to do things that went against their conscience. In this country, in the United States of America, you don’t have to do that. We are free to make our own choices. And if our conscience is bothering us, we can follow that.

In Muhammad Ali’s case, he was asked to take a step forward and become a part of the Vietnam War, and he was against it on religious and moral and ethical principles, and he refused to take the step and he faced five years jail time but was ultimately vindicated in a Supreme Court case. OK, but he did have his prime stripped, his license revoked and he couldn’t earn a living for four years, all that.

Colin Kaepernick also did not go looking for a protest. It came to him. He was asked to stand for the national anthem. You do not have to stand for the national anthem. And even if it it was a rule that you did, is that Colin Kaepernick injecting politics in the NFL? No. That’s the NFL injecting politics by playing the national anthem and putting pressure on you to stand for it in the first place.

Yes, the NFL is injecting politics into football.

The one-time go-to networks for sports junkies has been sputtering for the last two years, losing hundreds of thousands of viewers. Most recently, ESPN has had to fire scores of personalities in an effort to trim $250 million from their yearly budget in 2017.

Maybe — just a thought — the network should focus on sports and leave politics alone. Just try it out. It’s crazy enough it just might work.