ESPN Honors Veterans, Active Military with Week-Long Initiative

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ESPN Honors Veterans, Active Military with Week-Long Initiative

from Pearl Harbor, Arlington National Cemetery

Armed Forces Classic Kicks Off College Basketball Season from Hawaii

ESPN dedicates a week of multiplatform content November 7-13 as part of the eighth annual America’s Heroes: A Salute to Our Veterans initiative. Highlights include SportsCenter live from the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor and segments from Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day (Nov. 11). In addition, the annual State Farm Armed Forces Classic will be played at the University of Hawaii that night at 7 p.m. ET.

Other highlights include ESPN2’s First Take, which kicks off the week with a live telecast from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., on Monday, Nov. 7.

New this year will be a one-hour, prime time Veterans Day special airingThursday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Hosted by SportsCenter anchors Hannah Storm and Kevin Negandhi, the program will include numerous features dedicated to veterans and active military personnel.

“We are excited about the uniqueness of our Salute to the Troops this year and showcasing two iconic locations in American military history,” said SportsCenter senior coordinating producer Michael Fountain. “We will begin the day with live coverage from Arlington National Cemetery, the resting place of many American heroes and we will end the day with a special, live 6 p.m. SportsCenter, from the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor. The show will focus on the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack and why that day is still so important for our Veterans today. Our coverage from both locations will include multiple elements, honoring our veterans, current members of the military and their families as well.”

USAA and Applebee’s are sponsors of ESPN’s week-long Veterans Day activation and many well-known athletes, coaches and celebrities will provide daily “shout outs” to members of the military within ESPN programming. The tributes will appear on SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms.

“Active service members and veterans are a critical part of the storyline that ESPN will address during our salute — these incredible individuals are our employees, our family members, our fans,” said Kevin Martinez, ESPN vice president of Corporate Citizenship. “From our remembrance of Pearl Harbor, to engaging the State Farm Armed Forces Classic athletes in local community programs, to the incredible stories of sacrifice featured throughout the week, we are honored to salute those who have fought for our freedom.”

ESPN’s “American Heroes” week will feature:


SportsCenter live from the USS Missouri will be anchored by Hannah Storm and Kevin Negandhi and will air at 6 p.m., with additional segments airing earlier in the day between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. SportsCenter’s early editions will conclude at 1 p.m. (8 a.m. in Hawaii) with a live rendition of the national anthem from Pearl Harbor. SportsCenter segments from Arlington National Cemetery will be anchored by Sage Steele and will air from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., with additional segments airing during the 6 p.m. show.

Among the features airing on SportsCenter:

  • Healing Through Surfing – A surf camp in San Diego is helping soldiers with PTSD heal through surfing the Pacific.
  • Heat Home Strong – The Miami Heat NBA team will honor fallensoldiers at designated games this year by wearing the soldiers’ names on their uniforms.
  • The Liberty Bells – Hannah Storm tells the story of a group of friends in New Haven, Conn., who grew up together, played on a baseball team together, and left for WWII together. Some of them lost their lives in the battle of the bulge.
  • The Islands SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett spent more than 15 years of his life living in the Hawaiian Islands. He wrote about how the beauty and culture shaped him in “The Islands.”
  • What Pearl Harbor Still Means – ESPN reporter and military veteran Sal Paolantonio wrote and voices an essay on the impact that the American Naval base in Hawaii still has to this day.
  • 40 Years of Women in Service – This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first women admitted to a service academy. Lt. General Michelle Johnson, a member of the first class of women at the Air Force Academy, joins other women who serve to talk about the impact that moment had on the academies.
  • USS Arizona – An essay on the memorial that remembers the ship, which was attacked and sunk at Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Missouri – An essay that remembers the ship where the final treaty was signed to end WWII.
  • Arlington National Cemetery– Arlington National Cemetery is the resting spot for some of the most powerful people in American history. In this feature, reporter Tom Rinaldi captures the power of the place as well as the traditions surrounding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • What Service Means – Various members of service academies discuss what pride, honor and service means to them.
  • A Soldiers Child – A camp in Tennessee focuses on the healing of kids who have lost their parents at battle.
  • Gary Steele – Sage Steele profiles her father the first African American to play football at West Point.

The State Farm Armed Forces Classic

On Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, – just under a month from the 75thanniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor – No. 10 Arizona will square off with No. 12 Michigan State at 7 p.m. and No. 3 Kansas will take on No. 11 Indiana at 9:30 p.m. Known for their rich basketball history, the four programs have combined to win 11 NCAA titles and appeared in 34 Final Fours.

State Farm College GameDay begins coverage at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN Radio from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. Host Karl Ravech will be joined by college basketball analysts Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg and reporter Andy Katz. Analysts Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas will call the games with on-court reporter Molly McGrath. The games mark the start of the 2016-2017 college basketball season across ESPN platforms.

First Take

ESPN2’s First Take with Max Kellerman,  Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim will be live Monday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. from Joint Base in Charleston, S.C. The hosts will be joined by Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Darius Rucker. The show will have a live audience of military personnel as the hosts discuss the topics of the day.

NFL Countdown

Sunday’s NFL Countdown on Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. will feature the story of the Bell Family. 1st Sgt. Russell Bell lost his life in Afghanistan in 2012 while serving, leaving behind a wife, LaToya, and her now 5 year-old son, Gage. A Carolina Panthers game was the first professional football game Russell ever attended. 1st Sgt. Bell and his father-in-law, Clifford, bought season tickets together at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte NC. Unfortunately, 1st Sgt. Bell never got to enjoy the new seats before he was deployed. His son, Gage attends with Clifford every home game. Also on Veterans Day weekend, each Panther will be wearing a helmet icon with the initials of a different fallen soldier from the Carolina area. will feature several Veterans Day-related pieces, including:

  • Training for a New Future: David Vobora was once Mr. Irrelevant. Now the retired NFL veteran is highly relevant to military veterans. Vobora owns and operates a gym in Dallas where he trains disabled veterans — many with multiple amputations — and provides some not only a new lease on life, but the ability to navigate it physically.
  • Rebuilding Camaraderie: Veteran Alex Stone lost the camaraderie and pride he felt in the military when he returned home. Now Stone helps other young veterans feel a continued sense of pride and belonging by connecting them with college coaches. Through his new company, vets who qualify play on college teams while earning their degree.
  • Brad Snyder Conquers the Alcatraz Swim: When Brad Snyder stepped on an explosive in Afghanistan, he woke up from a coma blind. Four months after his injury, the former Naval Academy swim team captain was recruited for the Paralympics and won two gold medals. So when asked to participate in the Alcatraz Swim for Sight, Snyder knew his involvement would be a great way to help the cause while also testing his swimming abilities in a different way.
  • In The Gate Podcast: This podcast presents a story of an Air Force veteran who found his kindred spirit in a very unlikely form. The story will premiere on’s racing page on Nov. 5. Staff sergeant Ron Krajewski of Gettysburg, Penn., had become quite introverted and spent much of his time at home after a career in the Air Force. Krajewski had taken up painting while serving in Saudi Arabia, and after his discharge he found Metro Meteor, a retired thoroughbred racehorse to paint. Painting with Metro has not only raised Krajewski’s spirits, but the paintings have also raised money for organizations that find homes for retired racehorses.

In addition, many of the features from SportsCenter’s Veterans Day coverage will be available for viewing on

College GameDay

The Saturday, Nov. 12, edition of ESPN College GameDay (9 a.m., ESPN) will include a feature to honor the veterans and those currently serving in the military.

espnW will feature the story of Stephanie Morris, an Army specialist who was injured in Afghanistan and rediscovered herself through adaptive sports.

ESPN On Demand

During the Month of November, ESPN On Demand will salute veterans with a folder filled with content dedicated to celebrate and honor America’s Heroes.

ESPN Corporate Citizenship

In honor of those who have served, ESPN will support Operation Homefront, an organization that provides life-changing programs that address the specific short-term and long-term needs of service members, veterans and their families. Operation Homefront Villages offers a financial bridge back into civilian life as military members are discharged from service.

ESPN also will support UP2US Sports to hire and train veterans to serve as youth-sports coaches in underserved communities. This program has been proven critical with 89% of youth considering their veteran coach a positive role model in their life and 60% of youth with a veteran coach saying that it has improved their physical fitness levels.

Additionally, ESPN employees in Bristol and New York will be stuffing care packages for veterans, and in Charlotte, employees will be honoring Home Town Heroes with a special Veterans Day salute in coordination with Purple Heart Homes.



Media contact: [email protected]

Molly Mita

I am a proud member of the ESPN communications team that is responsible for building publicity for award winning brands including SportsCenter and Outside the Lines. I have spent my last few years working in the NFL at The Detroit Lions and The Baltimore Ravens before heading to NBCUniversal. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work at some of the best organizations in the world but I am most excited for my journey here ESPN.
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