Courtside Commentary

Why the national anthem should not be played before sporting events?


Photo by Eli Hausman

Story by Jack Meltsner, Sports Editor

As the national anthem played before East Meck’s football game recently, an “elephant in the room” was evident as all the spectators knew the civil implications of this American athletic tradition. This provoked a question in my head. Why do we play the national anthem before every American sporting event?

If you dig deep into the songs lyrics, it never refers to or even hints at American athletics. In fact it is the story of a man who saw a large American flag waving in the wind the morning after the war of 1812. Literally speaking, this poem is used out of context and should be deemed unnecessary.

I understand that our Anthem should be played before an international sporting event to show national pride. But I believe this patriotic display should not be played before a domestic league’s game. It is just unnecessary and causes issues relating sports to politics. The removal of the Star Spangled Banner’s recitation would remove this dividing political dilemma.

The recitation of The Star Spangled Banner before a football game is worth noting because of the recent protests at the professional level regarding Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is a former African American National Football League (NFL) quarterback who last appeared on a field two years ago. Kaepernick noticed the recent police brutality and oppression of black people in America and decided to take action, driving him to initially take a seat during the national anthem in a preseason game as a protest. However, two weeks later, when he infamously took a knee during the national anthem. He started the “Kap” movement, which caught national attention as players from over 15 NFL teams and many other sports joined in with some form of protest regarding black oppression.

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.

— Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick’s kneel ignited the spark that started the fire, later engulfing the country in a series of controversies regarding the intent of his kneel. Some Americans saw his kneel as a sign of disrespect to the American flag and took offense.

To answer Kaepernick’s critics, I don’t believe that he, an American who is employed by the NFL, would intentionally disrespect his own flag and the flag of his employers. He had a greater cause, which was to put a spotlight on racial issues in America by using his platform as an American athlete.

President Trump took a radical stance on this dilemma, saying via Twitter that NFL owners should fire the players.

Due to the powerless NFL Players Association (NFLPA) along with the president’s backing, NFL owners were free to make rules solely on their judgement without the players input. In late May 2018 the NFL imposed a new rule that said any team will be fined if a player kneels or protests during the playing of the National Anthem. Instead, they may stay in the locker room.

Personally, I believe it is unfair and a violation of our inalienable rights to deny any U.S. citizen their right to protest. The NFL is handling this situation in the worst way possible. If you don’t like the way your players are protesting, you have no right to strip them of their rights and “quarantine” them in the locker room. Instead, the NFL should just tweak their pregame itinerary a little, removing the National Anthem.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and it’s commissioner, Adam Silver think very progressively on these matters. They encourage their players to exercise their 1st amendment right and speak out in a responsible manner. This is why I believe the NBA has stolen the NFL’s spotlight as the most innovative and prestigious professional American Sports League. They excel at the NFL’s weak points, doing a great job of handling player protests, which the NFL obviously struggles with.

Kaepernick who is now 30, is currently not on an NFL roster. However, he remains relevant by taking the NFL to court for collusion and blackballing against him. Kaepernick believes that the NFL colluded with its owners to collectively not sign him. Kaepernick is right; he is a much better quarterback than almost half of the quarterbacks in the league, which points to his movement as the sole reason for his unemployment.

Kaepernick is clearly still making an impact as he blazes the trail for African American athletes to make an impact beyond sports nationwide. On September 6, 2018 Nike aired an ad during the NFL season opener narrated by Kaepernick himself. This ad explained the importance of taking risks and shooting for the stars in American athletics, coining a memorable phrase: “ Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It.”