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Stop Playing The National Anthem At Sports Events

| October 11, 2017

There's a place and time. This isn;t it. (© FlaglerLive)

There’s a place and time. This isn’t it. (© FlaglerLive)

By Nancy Smith

Probably we’re not going to stop singing the National Anthem every time somebody gathers a crowd and produces a bouncing ball. But I can dream.

For decades I’ve questioned the wisdom of performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before every football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey game — yes, professional, college, high school and youth league. Even NASCAR drivers won’t start their engines until the National Anthem plays.

It’s not the law of the land. Nobody has mandated the performance of the anthem on playing fields. But it has become culturally ingrained in our sports psyche, like team colors. 

If we wanted, we could get past this, elevate a song that represents the country we hold dear to a far more sacred standard.

Thanks to President Trump’s pronouncement that owners should “fire” all players who don’t stand during the anthem — never mind that it’s an absurdly disappointing thing to say coming from the leader of the freest country on the planet — we have the perfect occasion to consider adiosing this abused tradition.

Let’s look at how sporting events got to be appropriate venues for “O say can you see …”

It’s no coincidence the anthem’s first surge in popularity came during wartime. Nationalism stoked by World War I meant people were more affected by the song, and the fact that Major League baseball players were being actively drafted meant those who weren’t drafted benefited from showing their patriotism. Over time, other sports began adopting the practice.

Historian Marc Ferris wrote a history of the national anthem. He points out that, at first, the anthem was a costly extra. “The thing is, you had to hire a band,” he told NPR in 2016. “That was expensive, so it was only for special occasions,” like opening day.

Ferris says after World War II, parks could cut out the expense of hiring bands. Sound systems allowed teams and parks to play the anthem easily. That’s when the practice became particularly widespread, because the new tech coincided with a huge swell in patriotism.

I like to think the anthem serves its highest purpose when it brings us, members of the nation, together as one and stirs up national pride. By definition, an anthem is “a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause.”

us flag

(© FlaglerLive)

I like to think every time it’s played, we shouldn’t be — as, sadly, sports fans always are — cheering impatiently toward the end to get the song over with and the game under way. It should be reminding Americans just how great our nation is and how lucky we are to live here. From first note to last, it should make us aware of the sacrifices it took to make it that way. 

Just lately, we cheapen our national song by politicizing it — athletes by using it to protest racial and social injustice, the president by using it to score points with his right-wing base and violate the spirit and intent of a First Amendment that guarantees the rights of all Americans to protest peacefully. 

Bottom line, we’re using it to make statements that reflect anger and divisiveness instead of pride. 

The only sports arena deserving of our anthem is an international field of competition — the World Cup, the Olympics, any event in which the United States competes as a nation against another nation. 

I first began to question the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at sporting events in 1990. That’s when Roseanne Barr famously butchered the song before a San Diego Padres-Cincinnati Reds game in San Diego. Barr capped off the abhorrent display by grabbing her crotch and spitting into the turf. I was there, I saw it, I never forgot it and it is captured forever on YouTube

Our national anthem deserves better than that. After President Trump’s profane rant over the weekend, I fear the song that should stir patriotism and pride in all Americans will become a battleground from which it may never recover. Players are more united with protesters today than they were before the president tried to bully them and their owners.

All we need to end it is one courageous league president to say, “We’ve had enough. Our football/baseball/basketball/soccer/hockey players will come out and get straight on with the game. No more National Anthem.” It wouldn’t fix everything, but it would be a start.

nancy smith sunshine state news columnistNancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.

38 Responses for “Stop Playing The National Anthem At Sports Events”

  1. PTC Trader says:

    I have never read a more idiotic dissertation. Nancy. This is America. The anthem is part of our tradition and heritage. It is misguided people like you that think we should change our culture to appease the radical left. Sorry. You, madam, lack American spirit and patriotism.

  2. Ken Dodge says:

    Had we abandoned the National Anthem from sporting events, we would not have heard and seen Whitney Houston’s magnificent singing the Star Spangled Banner before Super Bowl XXV in 1991, a price to great to bear.

  3. Sw says:

    Hey Nancy I dont think so. Not a good idea. Disagree. Bad idea ino smh

  4. Duncan says:

    I would like to see our athletes stand in unison to the national anthem, it’s make one feel warm and fuzzy inside. However, there is no denying that racism continues to run rampant in our country and I believe one has the right to protest injustice in any fashion they choose. Not being of color, I can only imagine how disheartening it is to live in a society that reminds me on a daily basis that I’m am thought of an inferior by so many simply because of the color of my skin.

    I’m all for displays of nationalism, like the playing the national anthem, being reserved for more appropriate moments rather than at the beginning of sporting events, However, that would only mask a symptom of the greater disease of racism that engulfs this great country.

  5. Stan says:

    Athletes have made this a Racial protest,showing the black power sign is just that! it’s what it’s all about.I say end all high paying sports in our Country and make these people get a real job and see how they make out working for a living.If you give them an inch they will take a mile!! If you can’t Honor Our Nation you should not even be here. By stopping playing or singing our National Anthem is like saying pull out all the firefighters out of California and let the fires burn out on there own!

  6. Randy says:

    It’s not a law but it is a standard. We can tell this site just got a lot of liberal. If they don’t play the anthem it’s is just as disrespectful as not standing for it. Nancy might want to brush up on her English skills there a little rusty.

  7. August86 Tholen says:

    No recital of pledge of allegiance in school, prayer before a game with the team, 10 commandments on display, public display of a cross, statues of confederates, public display of the flag (violates Homeowners association), public display of Christmas trees..i could go on, where does this end? The fabric of America is is built on belief in God the almighty, respect for our country, it’s laws, citizens, and those who fought and died to keep us free. Duty honor country – the anthem the flag and God should be uplifted, pronounced respected and honored, not be put away on a back shelf!

  8. r&r says:

    The anthem is historical and should be honored. The communists that dislike it can all go to hell and move out of our country.

  9. tulip says:

    These athletes have had the PRIVILEGE of living in the USA. and They make a whole lot of money because they use their brawn to make it, not their brains. They protest because they don’t like the way blacks are treated. There are hundreds of thousands of white people and others who aren’t treated well either. We may not like our president, but that doesn’t mean we show disrespect to our country. There are things that do need to be changed in this country and and the majority of the Washington politicians and others are into it for their own greed, but it’s the only home millions of us Americans have, and until the voters get enough courage to see that things are changed, the status quo will mostly remain the same or worse. Never in my life have I seen people come up with bad ideas or thoughts and the people, like sheep, follow along. Why can’t people follow along with good thoughts?

    We try to teach our children to respect the country and to appreciate our freedoms, and to learn about how the USA came about and it’s beliefs, but when you have a bunch of athletes whose only ability is sports, uses their popularity to be disrespectful and ungrateful, this is a further insult to all people and those that do it should be sent to live in No Korea or Russia for awhile. Maybe they will learn to appreciate what has been given to them. I,m not a sports fan, but I have lost a lot of respect for team owners because they put money before integrity and are even afraid of the players.

    All this is teaching children and young people that it’s okay to be disrespectful, greedy and a bully.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      tulip, you’re one of my favorite commenters, but on occasion the premise of your arguments surprises me. Since when is it a “privilege” to be a natural-born citizen, as most of these athletes are–the majority of whose ancestors were dragged here in chains, likely by at least some of your ancestors–rather than an absolute right? I realize in my case that, having been naturalized, my hereticism could get my citizenship revoked (I mean, if our Dear Leader thinks he can revoke NBC’s license, who knows what’s next), but all these athletes, even the ungrateful, disrespectful, bully blacks, as you so inelegantly put it in code, don’t need anyone to be telling them what rights (let alone what privileges) are owed them or not. They are merely exercising those rights. While anyone is free to judge them for it, no one may, by right or privilege, deny them those rights.

  10. Saddened says:

    This article disgusts me. The solution is to stop singing our National Anthem? Yes people should have the right to peacefully protest—but kneeling during our nations song is the way? Where are these million dollar athletes locally in their communities? Why are they not standing with the people and attending local meetings to protest peacefully? They are doing it for the attention not the cause. Instead of suggesting to stop singing the song that represents all of us who live here maybe take your pen and write to the million dollar athletes and start a peaceful march or silent protest…….we both know they won’t be there for you. Some people pay LOTS of money to see these great athletes play and don’t care about their views. They arent paid for their beliefs. So stand! Stand tall to represent the nation that gives them their wealth and if they want to protest do it in the right venue…do it in the communities that need them.

  11. Nancy w says:

    So, in the same thinking as this, if cheating on tests is a problem do away with tests. Or, if people are breaking into locked cars stop locking them. Your solution of the problem is to end the playing of the National Anthem so players won’t be offended what about the thousands of people who respect the anthem and the flag? Obviously their opinions don’t matter.

  12. Born and Raised Here says:

    Continue to play the National Anthem, and bring back Prayer before every Sporting Event. Most of us grew with these two entities in our life. What changed it ?

  13. Layla says:

    It wouldn’t be a start, it would be “mission accomplished “. Removing the Anthem was the goal of these demonstrations.

  14. Mr Chris says:

    Nancy, citizens of “the freest country on the planet” like to take a moment to acknowledge that freedom. Trying to put a stop to that would go as far as trying to turn lead into gold.

  15. Carolyn Sierra says:

    Reading between the lines, I think you have more of an issue that Mr. Trump is President then you do about them playing the National Anthem. Let’s face it, none of this even started until Trump got into office.
    Bottom line is this, we should honor and respect those in office whether we like it or not. We can’t change it so…. The more we push back and voice our dislikes of something we cannot change, the more strife and desention we stir up, and we all know we don’t need anymore of that in our country. We need to act like Americans and be accepting of each other even if we are different!!

  16. Proud American says:

    Why did you publish this liberal garbage? Do you not see all the Trump stickers around town?

  17. Stan says:

    Nancy ,I’m sure you impressed a lot of Gold Star Mothers!

  18. Bill says:

    Total BS saying lets NOT have the anthem because some wish to use that time for their own political statement instead of showing unity as ONE Nation. this is the NFLs and medias fault firs the media by making this BS out as some great statement the NFL for NOT saying Stand or get fired.

  19. Marianne says:

    The people that want to take everything good away from the American people should be a shamed of themselves. We Americans are not ashamed to hear the National Anthem or prayers. Nancy and all the other that want to bring down America, we great American people won’t let you. President Trump became president because the American people had enough of all the evil, yes sometimes he doesn’t say it the right way bit he is 100% for the American people. That is why I switched parties to vote for him. We middle class people are tired of working 2 and 3 jobs to support our family and pay for medical plans that when you meet your cap on prescription plan you have to pay out of pocket while people that dont work get it free. I’m not saying don’t help people that dont have money but don’t cap the people who are being taxed to help others. Obama care was the worst and also the worst president

  20. Pogo says:

    @knee jerk trumpholes

    Nancy is a political operative of the Jeb machine – floating a trial balloon – for nervous bidness mens (sic) looking for shelter from another storm created by the freaking moron in the oval.

  21. George says:

    The national anthem is a tradition because we choose to let it be. Racism, slavery and oppression is also a tradition in America. I’m ok with letting both go. Neither make the country better.

  22. Nancy Pierre says:

    California dreaming…zzzzzzzzz

  23. PCer says:

    I like the anthem, its a great tradition. But I also respect those protesting the ingrained racism in our nation.
    For all of those who do not like the protests and say they are inappropriate… please tell us when an “appropriate” protest takes place. Is it by staying seated on a bus? Staying seated at a lunch counter? Placing a flower in a soldiers rifle? Walking a picket line in front of a factory? Change doesn’t happen when we stay comfortable.

  24. Bill Myers says:

    This might be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.

  25. another vet says:

    How about next time a robbery or a drive by shooting happens, the police “take a knee” and the NFL players catch the bad guys

  26. good american says:

    well, then stop giving the NFL the $7 billion tax break.

  27. Bill Myers says:

    I am not questioning the protest, I questioning the intelligence to cease playing the National Anthem due to the protests. I hated the Vietnam War, but still saluted the flag. I also reserve the right to recognize or ignore the protests.

  28. Sherry says:

    Right On PCer! My thoughts exactly!

    The trouble is that some people think our constitutional rights only apply to “their” personal being and “their” personal belief system. Thousands upon thousand have suffered and died to preserve “rights” that they do not agree with, but they passionately defended the underlying FREEDOM for their fellow citizens to exercise those rights. “I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it”

    When people say things like ” these athletes have the privilege of living in the USA” . . . they are showing nothing but their prejudice and bigotry. Those who resort to name calling, or insist that people leave “my/our country” are simply displaying their utter contempt for intelligence and education beyond their understanding. PITIFUL!

    As for those who disparage Nancy’s English skills. . . you should look to your own. For example, it’s “they’re”, not “there”.

  29. fredrick says:

    They can protest on their own time not when they are at work. If they came on the field with a Trumper shirt on all you libs would totally lose your shit.

  30. Jameson Risley says:

    Wrong answer Nancy! The rich athletes absolutely do have the right to protest in a peaceful manner – on their time. They are at work, and employers do have the right to discipline or discharge employees that violate workplace rules. No one has the “right” to interrupt work meetings to discuss abortion policy. The NFL has policies in place already about player conduct both on and off the field, and has disciplined players who have violated policy. The league would not support honoring 9-11 victims or the slain Dallas police officers because it “violated the uniform policy”. In this case both the league and the owners would be within their rights if they chose to discipline players, but they lack the courage to do so in the current atmosphere of liberal hysteria sweeping the country. Stopping the anthem playing at sporting events will only add another “win” for those who are trying to reshape this country in their image. First it was attacking religion, by attempting to remove it from all facets of public life, then it was patriotism being equated with evil nationalism, and now you propose to halt singing the anthem. Why not just dissolve the country, throw out the Constitution and start over? That’s what the goal is – to destroy from within what external forces have failed to do. I like it here, having traveled around the world during my military service and seen what is offered elsewhere. We aren’t perfect, but we have come a long way, and we offer far more opportunities for those willing to work hard than anywhere else. If this country is such a horrible place, why do we have a problem with illegal immigration? The reason they come here is because they have dreams of a better life, while people like you attempt to diminish that life from within by whittling away at what makes us unique in the world. And I do absolutely agree with the sentiment “love it or leave it”. If this country is so unjust and horrible to you feel free to use the exit and go find another one that meets your expectations. But STOP trying to destroy my country!

  31. Sherry says:

    I’m quite certain that those who say that “they can protest on their own time” would also say that “they” (you know, those non-white, inferior beings) should not “peacefully” protest in the streets, on college campuses, etc. And, that the should not hold up banners for “Black Lives Matter”. . . maybe because they are privileged to live in “our” country. Right?

  32. Ken Dodge says:

    O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
    What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
    O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
    O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
    Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
    What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
    As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
    Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
    In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
    ’Tis the star-spangled banner—O long may it wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
    A home and a Country should leave us no more?
    Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
    Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
    Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  33. Bc. says:

    Nancy really

  34. Lazaruis says:

    What a moron !!
    Why don’t we just quit having sporting events altogether??
    Stupid liberal idea !

  35. GT says:

    Wow this is one of the stupidest idea i have ever heard! Most of the morons that are taking a knee should remember that this country is the reason they are making millions every year for playing a game and if they had to get a real job it would most likely be in a factory of a gas station. They should thank god they live here because if they didn’t they would never have the chance they have been given to have what they have.
    The big problem is that a lot of little kids look up to these guys as heroes and what kind of message are they putting out.

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