Trump’s ESPN Petition Wants To Pressure The Network Into Airing The National Anthem

By Renae Reints
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Ever since football quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem two years ago, a portion of the American public has been up in arms about politics crossing into sports. ESPN has largely avoided taking a stance on the protests; they historically don't often air the national anthem before Monday Night Football. But now, Trump is weighing in — with signatures. The president's campaign sent out an email Wednesday calling for supporters to sign Trump's petition, pressuring ESPN into airing the national anthem.

When the protests first began, some praised the players for practicing their right to free speech, making a statement against police brutality. Kaepernick said he's "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," according to NFL media.

Others, however, feel the players are disrespecting the country. Trump has been outspoken about the issue, tweeting on Aug. 10 that the kneeling players "should be standing proudly for the National Anthem."

Now, Trump's attacking ESPN on the issue, USA TODAY reports, sending an email to his campaign supporters calling for them to join him in "denouncing this SPINELESS surrender to the politically correct liberal mob."

In his attempt to pressure ESPN into broadcasting "The Star-Spangled Banner," Trump asked, "If 'America' is too offensive for anyone in our country, then what are they doing in America?"

The petition site claims "ESPN has decided to stop playing our great National Anthem because it’s too controversial," but this statement isn't exactly true. ESPN typically doesn't air the anthem, except on special occasions like the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"We generally have not broadcasted the anthem, and I don’t think that will change this year," ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told the New York Post earlier this month.

The NFL itself attempted to address the negative press resulting from players' protests with new regulations. Under the NFL's new rules, players are no longer required to be on the field during the anthem. Thus, those who wish to protest can simply remain in the locker room. If players are on the field and choose to kneel, however, they can be penalized.

This change of policy wasn't enough for Trump, who tweeted in Nov. 2017 that remaining in the locker room is "almost as bad as kneeling."

With his petition, Trump turns the battle away from the league and towards the networks broadcasting its games. Many, however, believe this latest outburst is simply an attempt to drive the news media away from the recent revelations in Paul Manafort's and Michael Cohen's legal proceedings.

Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges Tuesday. In doing so, Cohen admitted he made payments "in coordination and at the direction of the candidate for federal office" to keep women quiet about alleged affairs they had with Trump, Newsweek reports.

Trump has denied these allegations, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took to the stand Wednesday to reinforce that the president "did nothing wrong" in relation to Cohen's hush-payments, CNN reports.

Trump's former campaign manager, Manafort, has meanwhile been found guilty of tax fraud, among other charges.

This news is not good for Trump due to his previously close relationships with both of these men. While Trump took the time to tweet about the situation, it seems ESPN is also among his concerns.