The pregame playing of the national anthem will be included in CBS’s and NFL Network’s simulcast coverage of the Bears-Packers prime-time matchup Thursday night, a CBS Sports spokesman said Wednesday.
Whether the decision by Packers management to urge those attending the nationally televised game at Lambeau Field to lock arms during the anthem in a show of unity played a role in that decision or was a response to it was not clear.
Customary playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before NFL games has become notable in the last year as then-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick and then others opted not to stand in order to bring attention to racial discrimination and police brutality.
The newsworthiness and number of participants in the demonstrations grew exponentially after President Donald Trump spoke out against the protests and protesters late last week, which he has continued to do since.
“You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country, and that’s what they’re doing,” the president told reporters Wednesday.
Last week’s Thursday night NFL game was played the night before Trump laid into the protests at an event in Alabama. The game was carried on NFL Network but not on national broadcast television, and coverage included reporting on the protests but not the playing of the song itself.
The president’s continuing invective against the protests has made them difficult to ignore even if the NFL and its TV partners would prefer to squeeze in more talk about the game ahead or another commercial.
Some critics noted that even as the weekend’s NFL telecasts covered the anthem and protests, there seemed a reluctance to show the response of fans in the stands.
Wrigley Field to play the anthem and other tunes at games, Wrigley said the anthem was appropriate because the nation was fighting in Vietnam regardless of whether there had been a formal declaration of war. But obviously the tradition continues to this day.
Night shift: Besides the anthem, Thursday night’s broadcast will open with a scene-setter focusing on the tradition of the Packers-Bears rivalry dating to Curly Lambeau and George Halas. The great Michael Keaton will narrate.
See what clicks: Thursday’s Bears-Packers game also will be the first of 11 NFL games Amazon will stream live this season. Reflecting the retail giant’s global reach, it will have four feeds available.
Beyond the standard CBS-produced feed — featuring play-by-play man Jim Nantz and impressive rookie analyst Tony Romo — there will be one version in Spanish and another in Brazilian Portuguese.
Most intriguing, however, will be an alternative English-language feed aimed at potential viewers around the world not all that familiar with American football, how it’s played, its rules, idioms and idiosyncrasies.
Might have to check that out to see how they explain the erratic Bears.
Are you buying this? Amazon also is producing a pregame show that will be on its home page on Thursday, hosted by former NFL running back Tiki Barber and Australian chef Curtis Stone. It may have a bit of a home-shopping feel to it, with plugs for NFL-themed merchandise.
Some NFL dish: The NFL is unhappy with DirecTV, which has been allowing customers citing the anthem protests to cancel their “Sunday Ticket” subscriptions and get refunds, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal noted not everyone at DirecTV was clear about who was exempt from normal restrictions on cancellations and refunds or why.