ESPN’s recognition of Veterans Day 2014, its sixth annual America’s Heroes initiative, will include live, day-long SportsCenter coverage from The Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio (Tuesday, Nov. 11); ESPN2’s First Take from a military hangar at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey (Monday, Nov. 10); and the Armed Forces Classic from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico (Friday, Nov. 14).
“As part of ESPN’s company-wide recognition of our veterans and active troops, our presence at The Brooke Army Medical Center will be to celebrate a new chance at life provided to our wounded warriors by the caregivers there,” said Sr. Coordinating Producer Michael Fountain. “SportsCenter’s celebration on this day will be of the resilience and never-say-never attitude of the wounded and the doctors who care for them. By integrating elements across shows and platforms, and having SportsCenter’s presence in San Antonio, we are providing fans diverse content honoring our veterans and men and women in the service.”
Among those providing daily “Shout Outs” via vignettes to the troops are: Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Jeff Gordon and Diana Taurasi. USAA and Applebee’s are sponsors of the weeklong “America’s Heroes” on-air activation and these athlete tributes airing on all ESPN platforms.
SportsCenter segments from The Brooke Army Medical Center, one of the largest and most advanced medical facilities in the world and often the first stop stateside for the most gravely wounded returning from battle in the Middle East, will be anchored by Hannah Storm and Kevin Negandhi throughout Tuesday. (Additional SportsCenter details below.)
ESPN’s “American Heroes” week will also feature:
The third annual Armed Forces Classic on Friday, Nov. 14 (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET) will take place from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico, and will feature 2013 national champion Louisville vs. Minnesota. Rick Pitino, a 2013 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will face his son Richard Pitino, currently in his second season as head coach of the Gophers. Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Andy Katz describe the action.
ESPN2’s First Take with Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and Cari Champion will be live Monday from a military hangar at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and feature a message from First Lady Michelle Obama, which will also run on SportsCenter. Troops will join the show, along with special guests.
ESPN.com will feature several Veteran’s Day-related pieces, including:
- Jack Chevigny – The 1920s college football player from Notre Dame played with George Gipp and for Knute Rockne, was the head coach at Texas and drafted into World War II at age 36, where he was killed in action. Steve Wulf
- Vincent Jackson – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver grew up in a military family. His foundation, Jackson In Action 83, focuses on helping families cope with deployment in a Tampa community that includes MacDill Air Force Base and a large military population. Pat Yasinskas
- Poppies at the ATP Tour Finals – With the ATP Tour Finals on Nov. 9 in London, the top men’s tennis players will be introduced to the traditional British gesture of wearing poppies for Veteran’s Day. Kamakshi Tandon
- Marty Smith reports on U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer, who three years after stepping on a pressure plate IED in combat and ultimately losing his left leg to amputation, won his first sports car race.
Marine Corporal Joshua Hotaling lost both of his legs when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011. He had been a horse racing fan from before his deployment, and upon his return he struck up a relationship with a thoroughbred owner named Bob Bone, and their journey has taken them to the Kentucky Derby winners’ circle, and to a filly bearing the soldier’s name – Hotaling Heart. “I didn’t know the difficulty from walking in prosthetics, the constant pain,” he tells host/producer Barry Abrams. “In The Gate” is on ESPN.com’s horse racing page.
Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m., ESPN): The Flyover — As part of its honor to U.S. Armed Forces on Veterans Day, Countdown will highlight the connection between the military and the NFL via a feature on the pre-game military flyovers. In their own words, top coaches, players and the pilots from Super Bowl XLVIII’s flyover, discuss the significance of the tie between the military and the NFL.
ESPN The Magazine – The “College Hoops Tip-Off” issue’s Insider Spotlight is dedicated to members of the military. The photo selected is from the October 11 Navy vs. VMI football game in Annapolis, Md. On newsstands now.
The Texas Softball Presented by Sun City by Del Webb game between the University of Texas and The Sun City Veterans group (ranging in age from 64-82 and based north of Austin) will be televised by the Longhorn Network Tuesday at 7 p.m. Veterans will umpire the game during which a different group of veterans will be honored each inning including the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps.
ESPNU to Feature the Coast Guard Academy
The November 14 basketball game between the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Hampden-Sydney will be telecast live on ESPNU at 1 p.m. Kevin Connors, Jay Williams and Andy Katz will describe the action.
- Feature on former Harvard football MVP Colonel Donald Gajewski, the Medical Director for the Center for the Intrepid who performs amputations at the Brooke Medical Center, and says he has the “best job in the military” because he helps people regain their lives. Storm also interviews Colonel Gajewski on the set.
- Feature on former high school athlete August O’Neil, an Air Force special operator who sustained a severe injury to his left leg while on a rescue mission in Afghanistan. Chris Connelly reports that after many surgeries to save his leg and improve its function, he made the decision to have his leg amputated to give him a better quality of life in hopes of returning to his para-rescue team.
- An interview with actor Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and is a big supporter of the Wounded Warrior program. Negandhi sat down with him at the hospital as he prepared to perform an annual concert for the wounded with his band, the “Lt. Dan Band.”
- PLUS: Interviews with patients; a tour of the Rehab Center; a piece on the Spurs who donated a sport court to the hospital; a piece on the Wounded Warrior amputee touch football team, who played a team of former NFL stars in San Antonio; a “day in the life” feature on medics undergoing battleground training; interviews with members of the Gold-medal ParaOlympic sled hockey team – all treated at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
All Veteran’s Day programming across ESPN networks will be accessible on WatchESPN via computers, smartphones, tablets and connected devices.
ESPN Corporate Outreach:
While in San Antonio, Negandhi will participate in a KaBoom! playground build in the military community of Thunderbird Hills on Saturday, Nov. 8. With help from volunteers from the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation, the Thunderbird Hills Neighborhood Association, KaBoom! and ESPN, more than 1,000 children – mostly from military families – will have access to a healthy and safe space to play in their community.
Additionally, ESPN volunteers – including dozens of veterans – are working to build a three-bedroom home for a U.S. veteran and his family in Bristol, Conn., just over a mile from ESPN’s main campus with Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity. ESPN announced a grant of $25,000 toward the construction in July. The home is expected to be completed in December.
ESPN will also make a $25,000 donation to the USO and a $25,000 donation to Fisher House Foundation to fund ongoing programs that support active military and veterans.