Culture

Is the US National Anthem a Necessary Precursor to Sporting Events?

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the New England Patriots kneel during the National Anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

From middle schools to the pros, people in the United States stand for the National Anthem before sporting events. Yet, why do they do it? Officially, it is how they show their patriotism and love for their country. But given recent turmoil over the societal problems facing America, this tradition may be under scrutiny. 

Other Countries Ways

Surprisingly, most other countries don’t play their National Anthem before non-international sporting events. Events like the Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga games all don’t play the countries National Anthem before a game.

In Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America, even though they don’t stand for the National Anthem for non-international sports events it is the norm to stand for the National Anthem, at an international sporting event. Before World Cup matches, FIBA Championships, the Olympics, etc, players and fans will stand for their National Anthem. 

How it Started and What it Means

Francis Scott Key wrote the US National Anthem as a poem in 1814, it became a song in 1773. Then, it became the National Anthem for the United States in 1931. Once the United States entered World War One, baseball games became more patriotic. One of the additions to the games was the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” in Game One of the 1918 World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox. This was the first time they played the National Anthem at a sporting event. There was a positive reaction to the song being played, so they continued to play it for the rest of the series. The song continued to play during games, but only for special occasions (opening day, national holidays, World Series games).

After, its fame, it spread to other sports leagues. The NFL started the tradition in 1945, but players would not stand for the National Anthem. Instead, players would be in the locker rooms getting ready for the games, it wasn’t until 2009 that players would be on the field for the National Anthem.

The idea of the National Anthem being played before sports events originally was respecting people fighting for the country in World War One. Since then, standing up for the National Anthem before a sporting event has become a habit for Americans.

Current BLM Movements and its Impact on the NFL

In the United States, the Black Lives Matter Movement has been huge recently after the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man in police custody. The protesters have managed to get the responsible offers charged with murder, they have removed statues of slave owners, and have helped shape a newer and safer police department. 

This has led to NFL players speaking out about kneeling next season during the National Anthem. Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said that he is “absolutely” kneeling during the national anthem in 2020. Drew Brees on the other hand said he doesn’t stand for disrespecting the flag, but soon after apologized for his statement. 

John Steigerwald, a writer for Trib Live expressed his opinion, saying, “The tradition lasted 102 years. It has run its course. Time to just shut up, line up, and kick-off.” 

The movement of kneeling is huge as it brings awareness to the issues in our imperfect country, yet every time a player tries to kneel they receive backlash. Many Americans see kneeling as a sign of “disrespecting the flag” or “not supporting the troops.” 

Kneeling has become a symbol of justice towards racial inequality and police brutality. No players are kneeling to disrespect the flag or soldiers, instead, they are trying to end police brutality towards African-Americans and shine a light on the America we live in today.

Sports were once not involved in politics and didn’t deal with them. Nowadays, players try to create change in politics with the voice they’ve been given from sports. It is great that players are taking a stand, and are not just “shutting up and dribbling” as LeBron James says, instead they are using their freedom of speech. They use it in protests, over social media, and in the games. Yet, when they do play the National Anthem and some players kneel and some players don’t, it creates controversy, as the kneeling ones look like they don’t have respect towards the flag and country. 

The Verdict 

The National Anthem is unnecessary for sporting events between teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and other professional sports leagues. The playing of the National Anthem creates too much controversy which leads to players losing jobs and endorsements. Not too many other countries do it, and there is no reason to keep it. Players could add a moment of silence before games for victims of police brutality and other events. It prevents people from taking it the wrong way and still gives them a way to show their beliefs.

Eliminating the National Anthem is so much easier than fixing problems every day. It is ridiculous that players become hated for trying to raise awareness of racial inequality. It goes to shows the lack of progress in US social justice.

People no longer have to flex their “patriotic muscles” and can just come to a game to enjoy the game. It is an issue that league owners can resolve with a simple solution. Cut the Anthem out of non-international sports events altogether.

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