Should the National Anthem Be Removed From Sports?
The first time the American national anthem was played during a sporting event came in the seventh-inning stretch of Game One in the 1918 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Babe Ruth's Boston Red Sox. More than 100,000 U.S. soldiers were already dead in World War I. A bomb exploded in the game's host city of Chicago, Illinois, the day prior. A sparse crowd was on hand, and it didn't seem like playing baseball was the right thing to do.
But as the U.S. Navy band began to play, players on both the Red Sox and Cubs stood and faced the flag. Fans in the stands erupted with excitement after the show of patriotism.
The national anthem became a standing appointment (pun intended) before Major League Baseball games. Beginning with the MLB, leagues from the NBA, NHL, NFL, and all the way down to collegiate and high school athletics adopted "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a reminder that, no matter what jersey you're wearing, we're here as Americans and "our flag was still there."
Yet, ignorance prevails. Many spend their time talking, texting, using the bathroom, grabbing a hot dog, flirting with the girl behind them, or grabbing a selfie for social media. Playing the national anthem has become less about American ideals and more of a symbolic starting gun to the day's events.
I empathize with the "let's get to business" crowd who think removing the anthem isn't a big deal. After all, why waste the time if no one's paying attention? Why should we even afford NFL players like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick the opportunity to "disgrace" America by kneeling during the song?
Why? Because these are the United States of America, that's why.
Sports are a beautiful microcosm of our society where anyone — no matter your race, religion, gender or sexual orientation — can take the field and compete as equals. It's the anthem that brings us together for a brief moment honoring those freedoms.
Need proof of the anthem's power? Listen to an emotional TD Garden crowd sing in unison after the deadly Boston Marathon bombing.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is about perseverance. Francis Scott Key's four-stanza poem came in the shadows of Fort McHenry, which survived a night-long onslaught by the British during the War of 1812 — The first stanza is what we recognize as the national anthem of the United States. Yes, it was written over 200 years ago during a very different time in our history. But at its core, the anthem is about standing side by side, weathering the storm, and remembering that our country is fucking awesome when we work together.
Anyone who thinks it should be removed from pregame festivities, or reserved for "special occasions" like the Olympics or Super Bowl, is entitled to their opinion. Quite frankly, it's a naive one, but you know what, that's fine. This is America after all. In truth, we don't give thanks often enough for the freedoms we have. I think you can spare two minutes before eating your nachos.
The national anthem isn't going anywhere.
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