Deployed U.S. servicemen and women aren’t going without the National Football League during the government shutdown.
On Saturday, reports surfaced that the American Forces Network would be unable to broadcast the league’s conference championship games on Sunday because it was considered one of many non-essential government programs to be shut down after Congress failed to reach a budget deal. The news upset many, and the push began to reverse the network’s closure.
AFN Director Col. Dave Honchul tweeted on Sunday morning that “we’ve been given limited services and have brought back two channels ― AFN News and AFN Sports.”
While the network’s staff would normally be furloughed during the shutdown, the AFN’s television and radio broadcasts have been deemed “essential” services.
The Department of Defense determined that despite the shutdown, “the operational necessity of television and radio broadcasts constitutes them as essential activities,” Dana W. White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement to HuffPost. “We will continue to find solutions to support our troops at home and abroad. Congress must come to a resolution, support our troops and pass a budget soon.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that she was “glad our brave men and women” in the armed services would be able to watch the games.
Sanders has consistently defended President Donald Trump’s barrage of criticism of NFL players who have protested racial injustices during the national anthem. Trump called on fans to boycott games at a September rally in Alabama, and continued to denounce the league for months after.
“We want our flag respected ― and we want our NATIONAL ANTHEM respected also!” Trump tweeted earlier this month.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story identified the AFN as the Armed Forces Network. It is the American Forces Network.