ESPN Ombudsman: Disregard for anthem

October, 22, 2009
10/22/09
9:00
AM CT


ESPN Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer took some time to weigh in about Saturday's "College Football GameDay" telecast at the Cotton Bowl. Here's Ohlmeyer's take on what happened before kickoff:


ESPN's "College Football GameDay" kicks off festivities on Saturdays in the fall. It's a well produced examination of the day's key matchups, with informative features and pertinent interviews. The knowledgeable, amiable hosts dispense facts, insights and opinions live from campuses around the country, while capturing the excitement and enthusiasm that surrounds the games.


The Oct. 17 telecast preceded the Texas-Oklahoma game and was hosted from a set on the sidelines in the Cotton Bowl. While a celebrity guest provided his predictions for the day's game, the band -- no more than 50 feet away -- was playing "The Star-Spangled Banner." No one on the set seemed fazed by this. But the viewers who wrote expressed anger and outrage over what they perceived to be blatant disrespect for the national anthem and a profoundly unpatriotic act. Evidently, there was no embarrassment or contrition on ESPN's part, as that night's "SportsCenter" replayed a clip from the interview with the anthem as its musical accompaniment.


There was a time when there was universal respect, even a reverence, for "The Star-Spangled Banner." It has long been standard operating procedure for sports telecasts to either present the anthem in its entirety, or take great care to show a commercial or some other prerecorded material instead. In another era it was ingrained into production teams that, when trapped by a surprise playing of the anthem, all would respectfully rise to their feet and fall silent, even during rehearsal.


Proper conduct, according to U.S. Code (Title 36/Chapter 10, Patriotic Customs), is as follows: "During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in [military] uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart."


Disregard for "The Star-Spangled Banner" is becoming more common. It has happened previously on ESPN and on other networks. Viewers write about their perception of ESPN and announcer "arrogance." Perhaps GameDay's reaction to the anthem exemplifies some of the behavior that engenders that feeling. The implicit message the audience hears is a not-so-subtle "the importance of what we're saying right now far outweighs your quaint patriotic custom."


In speaking with ESPN representatives, we learned that the anthem was played 2 minutes earlier than scheduled, catching the production team and announcers off guard. Their reaction was inaction. The "SportsCenter" clip can only be explained as a lack of attention to detail. Said Mark Gross, ESPN's senior vice president and managing editor of studio production: "None of this should have happened. There are no excuses. It's embarrassing, and we apologize. Now we have to make sure it never happens again."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: OSU scandal

Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Longhorns talk

Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Barkley on Manziel

Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Kirk Herbstreit

Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Andy Dalton

Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.

Galloway and Company: Manziel talk

Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: Dez Bryant sounds off

Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: Dan Beebe

Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.