I am patriotic. I love my country and I am very proud of it. But what I am about to say might not sit well with my fellow patriots. I’m here to suggest that we stop playing the National Anthem at sporting events.
Hear me out on this. First off, one of my favorite songs is the National Anthem. When I hear it, I am reminded of not only those who served and died in the name of freedom in wars, but also those who served in other ways. Those who have fought for human rights, against racism, for justice and reforms.
But what does this have to do with a football or baseball game? Our National Anthem has become a showcase of political and ideological divides. To be frank, I don’t care who kneels or who stands for the Anthem. Neither act makes you a good or bad American. Expression of one’s beliefs or protesting is something this nation was built on. So, kneeling at the Anthem doesn’t bother me. It is something I myself would never do, but I do not think less of someone who does.
Standing for the Anthem doesn’t automatically make you a good American, or a good person for that matter. There are many amateur and professional athletes who have stood for the Anthem in public to go home to assault their spouses, neglect their kids, cheat on tests, abuse drugs and alcohol, and even murder. Being a good American to me starts with being a good person. Lance Armstrong, Ray Lewis, and Aaron Hernandez all stood at attention for the Anthem, but look at what they did off the field. Standing or not for the Anthem shouldn’t be a judgment of values, but that is exactly what it has become.
Many current athletes who have recently kneeled for the Anthem are some of the finest role models we have in sports, yet they are vilified for taking a knee. Many people have sworn off watching their favorite teams over kneeling athletes. There is no doubt that kneeling during the Anthem has helped fuel our racial divide in this nation, but not due to the actions of those who take a knee, but more so from the reactions of those who oppose it.
But the true reason I suggest we stop playing the Anthem at sporting events is the Anthem has lost its significance through its over use in sports. Things that should be special tend to lose their luster if they are over-done. In a typical season in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA combined, the Anthem is played 10,374 times, not counting pre-season and playoffs.
Watch any of these games at home, how many of you stand for the Anthem when it’s played on TV? Attend the game in person, how many of you now look around to see who is kneeling or protesting instead of reflecting on the Anthem’s meaning? Who among us sings it in public? I’ve attended many sporting events at all levels and I can’t count the number of times I have seen people roll their eyes because they seem inconvenienced to stand for the Anthem or remove their hats. People talk, text, take videos or pics, eat popcorn, and even drink beer all while the Anthem is playing. And some of you think kneeling is disrespectful!
The significance of the Anthem has seemingly been lost in the frequency of its use, so we should make an effort to restore it. Reserve it for significant government events, military or first responder memorials, and things that are truly ceremonious. With all due respect, a high school football game or a Badgers basketball was never intended to be patriotic. Fun, yes. Special to the athletes, coaches, parents, and fans? Of course! A symbol of patriotism? I don’t see it.
There will be those of you who will cringe at my suggestion, and some of you may even be upset with what I propose. This column is not meant to divide or disrespect, and my wife will tell you that I bleed red, white, and blue so don’t accuse me of losing my patriotism please. I just get upset at the thought that the song that is supposed to bring reflection and unity has been transformed to its current state of controversy and divide. Our Anthem is being abused, and not by those who chose a different form of expression than what we have typically known. Rather it is has been abused by our society for making it a routine instead of a solemn reminder of endurance for freedom. Let sports be sports, and let the Anthem return to being more significant than a pre-game festivity.
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