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It’s rare that a conversation about the NFL doesn’t at least visit the subject of national anthem protests — so when Al Michaels and the executive producer of the Super Bowl were trotted out to press on Tuesday at the TCA winter press tour, it was the first matter discussed.
Fred Gaudelli, who also runs Sunday Night Football and NBC’s coverage of Thursday Night Football, took the question in stride. He stressed that the demonstrations, in which players take a knee during the song in protest of police brutality against black Americans, had waned.
“It’s certainly possible,” Gaudelli said of the chances of the protests taking place at the marquee event. “It was a pretty big story in our country this fall. We’d show it. When you’re covering a live event, you’re covering what’s happening. If there are players who chose to kneel, they will be shown live.”
Not all anthem protests have been televised. But the national anthem has always played a large role in the big game. This year, on the NBC-hosted telecast, the song will be performed by Pink. Player protests have been a particular point of ire for President Donald Trump, who has taken multiple swipes at the NFL on Twitter and at rallies.
Gaudelli also used his time onstage at the press tour to stress that NBC Sports will be using the Super Bowl to plug the Winter Olympics — so expect a lot of Mike Tirico. He also defend the attendance issue that has plagued some NFL games this year — something he said has been blown out of proportion.
“New York had a game in week 17 where it was 4 degrees outside,” he said, referring to the frigid New Year’s Eve game between the Giants and Washington. “Why would you go and sit in that when the Giants are 2 and 13?”
The future of one NFL TV franchise is currently up in the air, now that the current Thursday Night Football contract share between CBS, NBC and the NFL Network has expired. Guadelli told the crowd that he did not know where it will land next.
“I think those negotiations are just about beginning,” he said. “It’s really hard to speculate. It’s really early in the game.”
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