Two Kansas City Chiefs players sat during the national anthem Monday night following the deadliest shooting in United States history.
Cornerback Marcus Peters and linebacker Ukeme Eligwe were the only two players on either team who decided to sit during the anthem:
Although no video was available that showed Eligwe, a video clip was found that showed Peters sitting during the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner.
ESPN has paid a lot of money for the rights to air Monday Night Football, one of the network’s biggest ratings grabs, but leading up to the first NFL game after the most deadly mass shootings in the history of the country was a near disaster for the network.
Sunday night, a lone gunman opened fire on a crowd of country music fans, leaving 58 dead and over 500 wounded, the worst mass shooting in American history. Monday was a time for unity and healing, something ESPN made clear when it reversed its previous decision not to air the performance of the national anthem.
On Monday, the sports network decided to air the anthem as a way of showing national solidarity in a time of tragedy. But things went south for ESPN even before the anthem began to play.
With about 15 minutes left, ESPN’s pre-game show, Monday Night Countdown, suddenly went dark, experiencing what the ticker repeatedly told the viewers were technical difficulties. Instead of pre-game hype and analysis of the big match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins and looks back at key games from the weekend
ESPN viewers watched a host in the studio scramble to fill dead time and quickly introduce some flashback footage of the 2017 Major League Baseball season.
That thematically inappropriate pre-edited segment was then followed by a heartbreaking pre-filmed segment on legendary NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer’s tragic struggle with Alzheimer’s.
A few minutes after 8 p.m. EST, the coverage of the game finally began, the hosts apologizing briefly for the lengthy “difficulties” and then doing their best to act like everything was going as planned.
But when the now utterly politicized performance of The Star-Spangled Banner began, ESPN provided for the audience a look inside the mind of a network panicking (like the NFL) over how to handle the anthem protests, particularly following a national tragedy.
After a moment of silence for those impacted by the horrific actions of the shooter in Vegas, the anthem played. During its performance, the cameras mainly stayed focused on players and the crowd, all standing united during a time of so much pain, outrage, and shock.
However, the camera did focus for a few moments on one particular player: the Chief’s cornerback Marcus Peters, who sat all alone on the bench while everyone else in the stadium (except reportedly fellow teammate Ukeme Uligwe, who was not featured on camera) stood united.
ESPN’s analysts made sure to emphasize that “only one” player didn’t stand, clearly trying to stress the solidarity of the players over the division of the anthem kneelers/sitters.
Two Chiefs, Marcus Peters and Ukeme Eligwe, sitting during national anthem.
The reason that ESPN made sure to underscore the unity, of course, is that the network has learned along with the NFL over the last week that kneeling for one of the few things in our culture that unites us is very bad for business.