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Nancy Smith

I Take a Knee to Playing the National Anthem at Sporting Events

September 26, 2017 - 12:00pm

Probably we're not going to stop singing the National Anthem every time somebody gathers a crowd and produces a bouncing ball. But I can dream.

For decades I've questioned the wisdom of performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before every football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey game -- yes, professional, college, high school and youth league. Even NASCAR drivers won't start their engines until the National Anthem plays.

It's not the law of the land. Nobody has mandated the performance of the anthem on playing fields. But it has become culturally ingrained in our sports psyche, like team colors. 

If we wanted, we could get past this, elevate a song that represents the country we hold dear to a far more sacred standard.

Thanks to President Trump's pronouncement that owners should "fire" all players who don't stand during the anthem -- never mind that it's an absurdly disappointing thing to say coming from the leader of the freest country on the planet -- we have the perfect occasion to consider adiosing this abused tradition.

Let's look at how sporting events got to be appropriate venues for "O say can you see ..."

It's no coincidence the anthem's first surge in popularity came during wartime. Nationalism stoked by World War I meant people were more affected by the song, and the fact that Major League baseball players were being actively drafted meant those who weren't drafted benefited from showing their patriotism. Over time, other sports began adopting the practice.

Historian Marc Ferris wrote a history of the national anthem. He points out that, at first, the anthem was a costly extra. "The thing is, you had to hire a band," he told NPR in 2016. "That was expensive, so it was only for special occasions," like opening day.

Ferris says after World War II, parks could cut out the expense of hiring bands. Sound systems allowed teams and parks to play the anthem easily. That's when the practice became particularly widespread, because the new tech coincided with a huge swell in patriotism.

I like to think the anthem serves its highest purpose when it brings us, members of the nation, together as one and stirs up national pride. By definition, an anthem is "a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause."

I like to think every time it's played, we shouldn't be -- as, sadly, sports fans always are -- cheering impatiently toward the end to get the song over with and the game under way. It should be reminding Americans just how great our nation is and how lucky we are to live here. From first note to last, it should make us aware of the sacrifices it took to make it that way. 

Just lately, we cheapen our national song by politicizing it -- athletes by using it to protest racial and social injustice, the president by using it to score points with his right-wing base and violate the spirit and intent of a First Amendment that guarantees the rights of all Americans to protest peacefully. 

Bottom line, we're using it to make statements that reflect anger and divisiveness instead of pride. 

The only sports arena deserving of our anthem is an international field of competition -- the World Cup, the Olympics, any event in which the United States competes as a nation against another nation. 

I first began to question the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at sporting events in 1990. That's when Roseanne Barr famously butchered the song before a San Diego Padres-Cincinnati Reds game in San Diego. Barr capped off the abhorrent display by grabbing her crotch and spitting into the turf. I was there, I saw it, I never forgot it and it is captured forever on YouTube

Our national anthem deserves better than that. After President Trump's profane rant over the weekend, I fear the song that should stir patriotism and pride in all Americans will become a battleground from which it may never recover. Players are more united with protesters today than they were before the president tried to bully them and their owners.

All we need to end it is one courageous league president to say, "We've had enough. Our football/baseball/basketball/soccer/hockey players will come out and get straight on with the game. No more National Anthem." It wouldn't fix everything, but it would be a start.

Reach Nancy Smith at or 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith



POLL: Should professional athletes be required to stand during the National Anthem?

Florida Politicians React to NFL 'Take a Knee' Controversy


There is something seriously wrong in your brain woman. You need to enlist in our Armed Forces and serve your country. THEN you will know why we recite the Pledge of Alligence and the Star Spangle Banner.

Trump dodged the draft........insulted a POW Hero......allows the KKK and white supremacists to have 1st Amendment rights, but deny black NFL players their 1st Amendment rights. If you agree with Trump.....I have to say you all need Jesus!

This country did not make me who I am. How stupid! Trump is sending this country to hell and he deflects your attention by talking about the NFL !

Some people of color don't feel the same about the flag. We have endured discrimination in many forms....monumental built to insult us.....whites constantly telling us what to do OR ELSE! Oh are still doing it! Standing for the flag at a sports event proves NOTHING .

NANCY - I BEG TO DIFFER! We live in America, one of the few bastions of (slightly squeezed) FREEDOM! So what do YOU think "pulls a Country together"? Do you KNOW how many other countries sing their National Anthem at Events of PRIDE"? How about "Failing Countries like ARGENTINA's move to "Socialism"? I'm sure that ALL sing their National Anthem in NORTH KOREA (for fear of death). HAVE YOU NO NATIONAL PRIDE IN WHAT AMERICA HAS DONE FOR THE WORLD? I USED to agree with your on almost everything... but you've LOST IT on this one!

I guess I'll stop reading this nonsense,too!

You are now no better than the trash that is systematically destroying the very fabric of our country and those who fought and died. Another song? Really? SHAME on you. President Trump was correct calling out these SOB's! You do know that it is Law Title 36, Chapter 10 PATRIOTIC CUSTOMS §171. National anthem; Star-Spangled Banner, conduct during playing My husband a United States Marine did 4 tours in Vietnam came back to the same trash that has resurfaced. I will never read any of your trash again, and put you where you belong "Email Trash Bin"

That's all it is! Another song. In my opinion, it's played way too much. Almost as much as Deutchland Uber Alas. I am Patriotic. I love my country, and would die for it any day. I won't die for a song, a flag or any other "SYMBOL" of this great nation. I'll die to preserve public "FREEDOM" though. And the freedom to NOT stand, sing, place hand over heart or any other "SYMBOL" of patriotism, you think is mandatory. Patriotism is one thing. Nationalistic Patriotism is what NAZI Germany was. And we don't need that in this country. Nationalism, leads to Fascism. Fascism leads to, you being as free anymore.

I have always regarded the National Anthem as an opportunity for unity and regard for our Founding Fathers that compiled the most precious document I have found...the US Constitution. To say what you have indicates you should try living in a country that does not have the protections afforded us here. As for this Nancy, I will not be accepting any more trash written by her. Her judgment is lacking in honestly analyzing anything. Her bias is startling. I am gone!!

BHeiney Really? Have you served in the Military? Do you even know the history of the Star Spangled Banner? The Flag? The meaning of each Fold of the Flag? The way you talk apparently not. A typical liberal pretending to Love your country. Trigger words that out you... Nazi, fascism and of course Germany, couldn't be farther from the "Truth" you must also watch CNN...

You are so full of "it" n-a-n-c-y - time for you to retire. Bye. Bye. I served in USAF 1966-1970. Yes, that was 'Nam time...per the drunk in the WH that faked a reason to kill so many young men for personal gain! Respect the Flag!

You are so full of "it" n-a-n-c-y - time for you to retire. Bye. Bye. I served in USAF 1966-1970. Yes, that was 'Nam time...per the drunk in the WH that faked a reason to kill so many young men for personal gain! Respect the Flag!

The rules of the game states that the national anthem will be played before each game and players will stand and face the flag. Their rules for which they accept and get paid for. At the very least they should honor there contracts or be in violation. So no one is responsible for their actions? The message here is it's ok to disrespect or country if you have an excuse to behave badly.

Yes Stan you are correct! And It is also a US Law The laws relating to the flag of the United States of America are found in detail in the United States Code. Title 4, Chapter 1 pertains to the flag and seal, seat of Government and the States; Title 18, Chapter 33 pertains to crimes and criminal procedures; Title 36, Chapter 10 pertains to patriotic customs and observances. These laws were supplemented by Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations. Title 36, Chapter 10 PATRIOTIC CUSTOMS §171. National anthem; Star-Spangled Banner, conduct during playing

Nancy, you have reached an all time low on political correctness bs! If the United States is so offensive then please leave! Take all the paid Soros thugs,BLMS, and sleazy politicians with you! Playing the national anthem before sporting events is tradition and history! The dumbos who choose to make a political statement and disrespect our flag are ill guided and overpaid sissies! ALL this nonsense started way before Trump, so don't try to pin it on him! As for me and millions of other Americans, I'll show my displeasure by never again going to, watching, buying any merchandise from NFL and NBA!

We need to take away the right to own a gun. That's a really stupid right and it's completely unpatriotic.

Kit, your on the wrong feed here. Typical liberal can't understand what your reading. Sure hope you don't ever own a gun! Our Second Amendment is what keeps us Free.

You just had to know some unpatriotic, anti-gun A _ _ H _ _ _would try to change the subject.

Quit playing ostrich and get your head out of your butt. You're unpatriotic and in the minority. It's a great tradition and tribute to the men and women who served. But I assume you never served our country. Ergo, to expect a verbose progressive like you to understand the meaning of our flag or anthem is really asking way too much.

this writer of column is great reason...Don't Smoke Crack..or abuse Oxy painkillers...It make your Column look in great Stupidity of your writing....Maybe When Karma takes your Legs then want have to Stand for the playing

It should be clarified first of all, that the players DO NOT have the "right" to disrespect the National Anthem - AT ALL!! It is clearly spelled out in the NFL requirements that every player shall stand, hold their helmet in the left hand while right hand over heart, no eye rolling, fidgeting, stretching, etc. - eyes on the flag and respectful demeanor. If they don't want to follow those rules, they can/should be fired. It is very hard for me to believe that this tiny moment in anyone's life is so disruptive that it should be abandoned when our whole nation is being consumed by "isms" of one type or another, to the exclusion and extinction of the greatest country every known. Patriotism is being swept from our schools by liberal/Progressive educators (if I can call them that) by rewriting the very history that has built and sustained our great country. It's certainly no wonder that the NFL players are so oblivious to the abundant, free life they have inherited - free of charge - from the great patriots who have sacrificed to hand it over to them. I'm venturing to say that less than 5% of the players have ever served in any form of military - or even Boy Scouts - where they might have actually learned something about the value and exceptionalism of the USA - and the National Anthem!

Could not have said it better myself, "Bottom line, we're using it to make statements that reflect anger and divisiveness instead of pride." There is no law that says we have to sing the national anthem anywhere, and if there were a law, it would be declared unconstitutional in a snap. So, yes, let's stop using the national anthem as a weapon against those we don't like. It's disrespectful.

No Problem if it's NOT sung before each event. If it's not sung, I'll miss it, BUT the players will need to find a new venue for protest.

Kapernick weaponized the Anthem. Trump was not just saying something he does not believe to inflame his base, he believes those who do not honor the Flag and Anthem, when it is part of the entertainment they are paid for, should be fired. He believes in business owners rights. He is not alone. We all have our own issues with America and serve it differently - some not at all, but that is their right, but regarding the Anthem, as a community we need to hold something sacred to hold society together. For this to be framed as a RACE issue, when it is a not and to toss out a sense of pride because a miniscule few cannot get themselves to take action so they pretend they are doing something by kneeling, is senseless.

Take a look at this Rolling Stone article search for Jesse Williams Calls National Anthem a Marketing 'Scam' Following NFL Protests "Williams, who has been vocal about social issues in the past, pointed out that the national anthem wasn't historically even a part of NFL tradition; it's only in more recent times that it has been played at the start of each game. "I think, Thomas, it's also important to realize that this anthem thing is a scam," he told MSNBC host Thomas Roberts. "This is not actually part of football. This was invented in 2009 from the government paying the NFL to market military recruitment – to get more people to go off and fight wars to die. This has nothing to do with NFL or American pastime or tradition. This is to get boys and girls to go fly overseas and go kill people. They're marketing. They're pumping millions and millions of dollars into the NFL to put on a pageant in front of NFL football games to get you to go off and fight."

You Sir are an idiot...

For me. I am glad to hear and stand for our national anthem any time I hear it. Many people in other countries want to come here to live the American dream. This should not be an option for entertainer's to disrespect the flag. Rights or not, I will not watch football, and pay for these players to ( what I consider ) disrespecting the united States because they view inequality. There are many other forums.

Out of respect for this great nation. Is there not a better reason? What kind of message are you sending to the enemies of the free world? Countries that are lunatics about their country, religion et al? doesn't that put a larger target on our backs from those radicals? Stop and think about what you just wrote Nancy, and don't write simply for the sake of filling up a column with hypothetical possibilities especially using the symbol that represents our great nation. Taking a knee's meaning to a Radical Islamic Terrorist is totally different than what your disdain, is for the American flag!

I am so disappointed in you Nancy. Having lost family members who selflessly served this nation fighting for Freedom on distant shores, I stand for Freedom, I stand for our Flag, I stand for America, and I stand for the men and women of military who have sacrificed so much for YOU and me. Is it really asking too much to regularly play the National Anthem in their honor? When else do we pause to say thank you to those who made it possible for us to breathe Freedom's air? I find your column to be callused and almost disrespectful. It is certainly not what I would ever have expected from you. I humbly believe that anytime and every time we can play the National Anthem and honor our our veterans, our country, and our flag, we should so.

So what will be politicized next? And from a practical standpoint, what does it mean to protest "social injustice"? How does showing such flagrant disrespect to our country further eliminating "social injustice?" If these players want to improve the lot of young blacks and other disadvantaged communities, they can get to work encouraging these kids to get an education, avoid drugs and gangs, be responsible family members, learn job skills. Many NFL players could also simply be better role models. But the biggest issue here is: we just want to watch football. The political views of pro players of any sport as well as entertainers and celebrities have no more value to most of us than those of any other citizen. As for the anthem, most of us find it a refreshing and energizing moment of acknowledging share values. No, we should not eliminate it. BTW while I am not the biggest fan of our President, his remarks echo the sentiment of the vast majority of people -and those folks don't have the power of the media to speak out so thank goodness the President is!


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nancy smith
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