During the 50th anniversary of Monday Night Football – and the first ever home game played at Allegiant Stadium – ESPN chose not to air the national anthem or the Thunderbirds flyover in its broadcast. ESPN has drawn criticism for not displaying the pregame events before the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints game.
ESPN’S vice president of event and studio production Stephanie Druley stated their policy is to cover the anthem when it’s “newsworthy.” For example, during week one of the season.
She said the final decision each week is a judgment call based on multiple factors. Factors include whether kickoff is on time. Druley added that ESPN is not avoiding social justice movements as they happen.
Instead, they will “keep to (ESPN’s) main rule, which is when it intersects with sports, we’re going to cover it. We don’t see the social justice movement as being political. It’s social justice.”
National Anthem Singer Weighs in On the ESPN Controversy
Carnell Johnson, also known locally as Golden Pipes, is the man who sang the national anthem on Monday Night Football. Johnson said he understood ahead of time that it might not be aired.
“I know there’s time constraints, there’s contracts they have to deal with,” Johnson said. “So it’s never a promise that it’s going to air but I know there’s always a chance.”
Johnson said he was honored to be the first person to sing the national anthem at the new stadium. Team owner Mark Davis made that decision.
“A couple years ago I have to admit I sat next to Mark at a game and I kind of planted that bug in his ear,” Johnson explained. “I just said, you know, if you ever need someone to sing the anthem at any time, I didn’t say the first game, I just said to sing the anthem, I’m available.”
Davis did not forget their previous meeting. When Raiders staff reached out to Johnson, they told him that Davis knew it had to be him.
“They were the ones that told me that he said when he closes his eyes like he’s seen me do it so many times at the Knights games, he’s like, I can’t imagine someone else doing it,” Johnson said.
The anthem was pre-recorded on Saturday afternoon, two days before the Raiders first ever home game in Las Vegas. In addition, Johnson said he hopes to be able to share video of his performance soon.