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In recent news, the subject of the National Anthem playing before sports games sparked debate again. Mark Cuban, who owns the Mavericks, decided to not require that the National Anthem be played at home games.
Cuban, who has held a majority stake in the Mavericks since the year 2000, made the decision by team influence, saying the Anthem “did not fully represent them.” Now, the Mavericks had already been doing this for a decent amount of time, but it wasn’t until Cuban confirmed that he had “directed the team to stop playing the song” that the debate started. It’s no surprise that this is a controversy. After all, everyone was up in arms in 2016, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem to protest police violence.
The National Anthem has been used in sports games as far back as 1862 and came back into a tradition in wartime (WWI, WWII, Vietnam). After the Vietnam War, the anthem stuck around. However, in-between wars, the anthem would stop playing.
The U.S. has had a war on communism since the 1950s. Once we were in the Cold War, the U.S. added ‘In God We Trust’ to Federal Reserve Notes in 1957, which I believe was a response to the USSR’s efforts to ‘stamp out religion.’ I have no doubt that the emphasis on using the Anthem during sports games re-gained importance during the late ‘60s to ‘70s in response to the war against the communist Viet-Cong. The Anthem probably stuck because the U.S. still wanted to take a strong stance against communism after pulling out of Vietnam.
Not including the Anthem in sports isn’t a big deal; in the end, it’s not sports we should want to be associated with our Anthem. Some may argue that they are connected, in that sports is a battle. However, it matters way less who wins a basketball game than how much impact the Revolutionary War had. The Revolutionary War had financial and political stakes; the worst that happens if the Warriors lose is Draymond Green cries in his multi-million dollar house. The stakes of a game are way lower than that of a war.
The National Anthem politicizes sports. Do people really think it’s a coincidence that a patriotic poem of war is played right before Americans demonstrate their athleticism? Is it any coincidence that athletes identify themselves as Americans by standing during the anthem, with their hands over their hearts, and then go play a game in which the best players win?
I feel like this debate points to a nationwide problem of toxic nationalism. This is not so much the fault of the people as it is the fault of the government. For years, the government has been feeding us this lie that the U.S. is so amazing, and that the National Anthem should be played at something as ordinary as a sports game because it’s worth that much attention. The U.S. and Canada are the only countries to perpetuate this propaganda. No European country plays any anthems before soccer matches. This is for a number of reasons, one being that European teams are “often more diverse than American sports teams. Manchester United, for example, has players from 13 different countries on its first-team roster of 26.”
In the end, it’s just a song, it’s just a flag, and it’s just a game. Why does it matter so much if a song is played before an event?
Featured Image: Courtesy of Vox