With its annual America’s Heroes tribute, ESPN will salute veterans and active members of the U.S. armed forces with a week of programming and initiatives Nov. 7-14 in recognition of Veterans Day.
Among the highlights will be a week of ESPN’s First Take program virtually visiting active bases; five days of special military-related features in SportsCenter and other ESPN programs including NFL Live and College GameDay and more digital and audio content. A collection of military-related content will also be available on ESPN+.
“At ESPN, we salute America’s Heroes for their incredible sacrifice and service to our country,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “We are not only proud to showcase their inspiring stories during our annual Veterans Week programming, but honored to help support veterans find employment opportunities as they transition to the civilian workforce through partnerships with DAV and ACP.”
USAA is the presenting sponsor 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. Among the participants will be Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Christian McCaffrey and Baker Mayfield (NFL); Arike Ogunbowale (WNBA); Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Victor Oladipo (NBA); Dabo Swinney, Dawn Staley, Jimbo Fisher, Lincoln Riley, Lane Kiffin, Kara Lawson and Mike Krzyzewski (college sports); Cobi Jones and Kelly O’Hara (soccer); Charlie Blackmon (MLB) and more.
ESPN’s “American Heroes” week will feature:
ESPN’s morning debate show First Take, featuring Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and host Molly Qerim Rose, will dedicate a week of Salute to Service shows to honor veterans and active military as part of ESPN’s America’s Heroes Veterans Week initiative. Beginning Monday, Nov. 9, each day’s edition of First Take (10 a.m. ET, ESPN) will include a live audience of military service members and special features from a different base across five branches: Navy, Marines, Army, Space Force and Air Force.
Special features will include:
- Spotlighting and recognizing service members, including day-in-the-life segments and interviews;
- Showcasing the unique military vehicles and state-of-the-art technology at each base;
- A tribute to the Marines’ 245th birthday from Camp Pendleton;
- ESPN host and analyst Doug Kezirian live from Nellis Air Force Base.
First Take’s Veterans Week Schedule
|Mon, Nov. 9||Navy||Naval Base San Diego (Ca.)|
|Tue, Nov. 10||Marines||Camp Pendleton (Ca.)|
|Wed, Nov. 11||Army||Fort Irwin (Ca.)|
|Thu, Nov. 12||Space Force||Vandenberg Air Force Base (Ca.)|
|Fri, Nov. 13||Air Force||Nellis Air Force Base (Nev.)|
USAA is presenting sponsor of First Take on Nov. 11 and Nov. 13.
Editions of ESPN’s signature news and information program SportsCenter leading up to and including Veterans Day will include features related to veterans and active members of the military, sponsored by USAA as part of America’s Heroes. Among the features airing on SportsCenter:
- Saturday, Nov. 7 – Rocky Bleier – Fifty years after it happened, former Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steelers great Rocky Bleier returns with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi to the place where he was wounded during combat in Vietnam.
- Sunday, Nov. 8 – Brian Decker — A former Green Beret who once re-worked the selection process for Special Forces at Fort Bragg to try to identify the best Green Beret candidates, Brian Decker now uses similar methods to evaluate the character and toughness of potential draft picks in his front office role with the Indianapolis Colts. The first draft that he had an influence on, the Colts had a first-round and a second round pick that earned All-Pro honors as rookies. Chris Connelly reports.
- Monday, Nov. 9 – Micah Herndon — Retired Marine Micah Herndon crawled to the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2019, refusing help as he was determined to finish on his own. It was a feat he was able to accomplish thanks to the inspiration of three fallen friends who helped to keep him going. Gene Wojciechowski reports.
- Tuesday, Nov. 10 – John Collins — The connection between Atlanta Hawks star John Collins and the Atlanta-Based “Veterans Empowerment Organization” stems from a lifetime of being shown what it means to serve, as both his parents were in the armed forces. Malika Andrews reports.
- Wednesday, Nov. 11 – Tobias Harris — John Mulzac lived a life of service to his community, his country, and his family. His career included work as a firefighter with the FDNY, a detective with the NYPD, a sky marshal and a U.S. Customs inspector. Before that, he served his country, as a Tuskegee Airmen. Maria Taylor shares the story of the impact Lieutenant Colonel John Mulzac had on his grandson, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris.
- Wednesday, Nov. 11 – Tony Dungy – In a feature from ESPN’s The Undefeated, former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy talks with The Undefeated’s William Rhoden about the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Dungy’s father was a member of the historic group.
Americas Heroes on Other ESPN Platforms
SC Featured The Return
The award-winning ESPN SC Featured film The Return will air in its entirety on Veterans Day Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. In the film, former Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier returns to Vietnam for the first time since he was wounded in combat there 50 years earlier. Bleier walks in the same valley where his U.S. Army company was ambushed on August 20, 1969. A shorter version will air during SportsCenter on Nov. 7 and will be available on ESPN.com.
College GameDay and College Football
On Saturday, Nov. 7, ESPN College GameDay (9 a.m., ESPN) will include various elements honoring Veterans and active military throughout the show. Shout-outs to military will also air during select college football game telecasts.
ESPN Daily Podcast
On Veterans Day, the ESPN Daily Podcast will feature an interview with Tom Rinaldi about his trip to Vietnam with Rocky Bleier for the SC Featured film The Return. Fifty years after it happened, the former Pittsburgh Steelers great returned with Rinaldi to the place where he was wounded in combat.
SEC Network will honor veterans throughout the week during SECN studio and feature programming, hearing from coaches and student-athletes about what Veterans Day means to them, including those with family members who have served. Marty & McGee is set to honor veterans during its Wednesday night episode (7 p.m. ET), taking place on the Veterans Day holiday.
ACC Network will commemorate Veterans Week with its studio shows – All ACC and The Huddle featuring interviews with ACC coaches and student-athletes about what Veterans Day means to them, including those who have family who have served or are serving in the military.
Features airing within ESPN NFL programming will include highlights from a flag football game in Afghanistan, organized by the New York Jets, involving teams made up of U.S. troops and video of the parachute team from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point parachuting into MetLife Stadium prior to the Patriots vs. Jets game airing on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Nov. 9. Also, programming will include live look-ins from overseas troops. In addition, NFL Live (weekdays, 4 p.m., ESPN) will include military shout outs in honor of Veterans Day and a piece from The Undefeated on Tony Dungy, whose father was a Tuskegee Airman.
The USAA Insurance Halftime Show on the Nov. 9 edition of Monday Night Football will include a recognition of USAA’s Honor Through Action campaign, which celebrates military veterans leading up to Veterans Day
Among Veterans Week-related pieces scheduled to appear on ESPN.com during the week:
- Nov. 11 — One of the more unique experiences in college football is being at West Point on Saturdays in the fall. But how is the team coping with the strangeness of the COVID restrictions and the role of football this season when they are not allowed off campus? Writer Ivan Maisel
- Nov. 11 — From Black men who left successful sports careers to join the order in the ’30s to current sports personalities still inspired by their sacrifice, the impact of the trailblazing Tuskegee Airmen is still felt in sports. A photography-focused custom project with the help of Tuskegeeairmen.org.
- ESPN.com also contains a landing page for ESPN military and Veterans-related content: https://www.espn.com/espn/citizenship/story/_/page/teamespn-veterans/veterans
ESPN’s multi-platform content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture will include several pieces of content on Veterans Day:
- A feature for SportsCenter:AM on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen with Tony Dungy, whose father was an Airman, and The Undefeated’s William Rhoden.
- A piece on TheUndefeated.com with Dungy, Rhoden and Rhoden Fellow journalist Jonathan Scott on the legacy of the Airmen
- ESPN’s NFL Live will air a feature from The Undefeated with Dungy. In his own words, the Super Bowl-winning coach will discuss lessons he was taught by his father, a Tuskegee Airman, and how those lessons apply to his push to get more African Americans hired as head coaches in the NFL.
- The Right Time with Bomani Jones – an episode during Veterans Week will discuss the Tuskegee Airmen and the new Lucasfilm initiative #FlyLikeThem aimed at educating youth about the history of the Airmen.
- In the Gate – ESPN’s thoroughbred racing podcast will feature former Keeneland Race Course and Breeders’ Cup Ltd. president James E. “Ted” Bassett. The 99-year-old was an infantry officer in the Marines during World War II, and he was twice injured on Okinawa. He will talk about both his military and his thoroughbred career.
Secretaries’ Cup Football Game
ESPN3 will televise the annual Secretaries’ Cup football game between the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday, Nov. 14, at noon ET. The rivalry game will be played on Tomb Field in Kings Point, N.Y.
ESPN Corporate Citizenship
In recognition of the sacrifices our active military and veterans have made, ESPN is committed to supporting organizations dedicated to those that have served. This includes teaming up with Disabled American Vets (DAV) to support virtual career fairs that provide access to critical employment opportunities to transitioning military members, veterans and their spouses seeking new or better jobs. ESPN also is proud to pair employees as mentors with veterans and their spouses through the American Corporate Partners (ACP) program, which connects post 9/11 veterans to business professionals for mentoring, career counseling and networking.
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