The anthem is out of place at sporting events

  • Barrington's Daniel Evers during the national anthem.

    Barrington's Daniel Evers during the national anthem. Daily Herald File Photo

  • The Carol Stream Police Honor Guard stands at attention on the Elfstrom Stadium infield just prior to the national anthem at the Kane County Cougars game in Geneva. In the dugout, the Cougars wear patriotic uniforms for the game.

    The Carol Stream Police Honor Guard stands at attention on the Elfstrom Stadium infield just prior to the national anthem at the Kane County Cougars game in Geneva. In the dugout, the Cougars wear patriotic uniforms for the game. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Wayne Messmer sings the national anthem at the Cubs' 2007 home opener.

    Wayne Messmer sings the national anthem at the Cubs' 2007 home opener. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/27/2020 6:29 PM

A friend had a request the other day: Leave politics out of sports.

He doesn't like politics, he said. He likes sports. He doesn't want to see players kneel during the national anthem.

 

So that means the national anthem should no longer be played before games, right? That probably was the first thing to come to your mind also.

No anthem, no kneeling. Problem solved.

Colin Kaepernick, of course, used the simple act of kneeling on the sideline during the anthem as a vehicle to direct Americans' attention to the cause of equality and saving Black lives. He used it to great effect, though at the cost of a few years of his career in its prime.

Take away the anthem and … Kaepernick will find another high-profile way to bring Americans' attention to his cause, if he wants.

Another friend believes it would behoove everyone to put a hand over their heart during the anthem. That's hard to do when you're holding a beer and a hot dog.

But this is not the first time it's been suggested that the national anthem not be played before games. Just last week New England Revolution coach Bruce Arena said on "Banter with Taylor Twellman" it was "inappropriate."

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"We don't use the national anthem in movie theaters, on Broadway, other events in the United States. I don't think it is appropriate to have a national anthem before a baseball game or an MLS game. ... I think it's inappropriate. And today, it's becoming too big of an issue."

And that's a man who coached the U.S. men's national soccer team on sport's biggest stage, leading the Red, White and Blue to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002.

One team has taken Arena's advice.

Tulsa Athletic, a minor-league soccer club, announced it will play "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie as a "song of patriotism" before games instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Take it from someone who hears the anthem well more than 100 times a year before different sporting events -- high school, college and professional -- Arena has a point. Hearing it before each and every game can be too much of a good thing, leaving Americans immune to its meaning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The anthem even seems out of place in stadiums and gyms. Get warmed up, psyched up, then stand still and quiet for a couple of minutes before getting psyched up again.

What comes first, introduce the starting lineups or play the anthem?

Look around during the anthem and you'll see kids fidgeting. Even adults will find ways to keep conversations going, if they're still at their seats. Many are in line at the concession stand, in the bathroom or walking to their seats as someone in the press box fiddles with the recording, hoping it works.

The idea of playing the anthem at games began during World War I and took hold during World War II. It was a way to rally public opinion to the cause of supporting the war effort.

Playing it now before every game dilutes that intent. Play it sparingly and the anthem will mean more to us when we hear it.

But it so happens now we have another, better way to show our patriotism every single day.

There is another way to show you respect and appreciate your fellow Americans.

And you can do your part to bring the games back.

Be a patriot.

Mask up, America.

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