Why Is The National Anthem So Important To Sports?

Written by: Shane Shoemaker

It all started with Colin Kaepernick, and now, this pre-season we’ve seen Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett sit as the National Anthem plays. Whether you’re highly against that or highly for it is not the question being asked here. The question is, why play the anthem at all?

I’ve saw a couple journalists talk about this, and I believe it is actually a good point. Why do we listen to the national anthem before every sporting event? What do sports, specifically, have to do with the national anthem besides the event taking place in the United States? The argument here is that it isn’t played before any other forms of entertainment like movies or plays, so why sports? And why are we taking this so seriously … when we really don’t ourselves?

(If you want to know the origin of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events, read this: ESPN: The song remains the same)

Before I get ransacked on here because people think I’m against the national anthem being played at sporting events or that I would even consider sitting or raising my arm in a form of some ridiculous protest, I’m not. I couldn’t be further from doing any of those things. No, what I’m simply asking is why we play the song at games at all? That’s all. I’m for it in every way, but what if it were played more sparingly, in more important games, wouldn’t that bring back more excitement to it? Imagine playing it only on certain occasions, like for games that took place during patriotic holidays, the first game of the season, the last game and playoffs. Sometimes less is more, and emphasis and greater acknowledgement is given when things are not in continuous sight.

I will say this, though — if the national anthem wasn’t played before games in any sport starting tomorrow, I wouldn’t be upset. That wouldn’t change how I felt about going to games, my view of others, the leagues, the country, the national anthem or anything else.

Think about this for a second. How many times have we shown disrespect while the “Star-Spangled Banner” is being played?

“I look in the stands at some of our games,” Doug Baldwin stated during a Seahawks press conference Wednesday, “both home and away, and I see people that are drunk with their hats still on, yelling. How come you guys aren’t talking to them?”

I think Baldwin has a good point here.

There are people drunk and yelling still wearing their caps. And I think that goes to show just how accustomed we are to having the song played at games. Maybe not intentionally, but it lacks importance now because it’s played at every game.

Seriously, think about it — how often are we just going through the motions listening to the anthem? How many times have we ever wanted the song to be over with just so the game would start even quicker? How many times has one of our friends or family members been standing beside us, pointing out something humorous that someone else is doing three rows down from us? How many times have you or others in your section been seen going to or coming back from the bathroom or the concourse area? If you’ve been to a game you know exactly what I’m talking about, and while these things are happening, not a bit of attention or thought is given towards the lyrics of the song or focus on the flag and country.

I’d be willing to bet a majority of the people who have called Kaepernick, and now Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett, out for their supposed disrespect toward the anthem and the country have done things that would definitely be classified as disrespectful while the national anthem was being played over loud speakers in front of a large crowd. And even if you weren’t one of the ones doing anything disrespectful you probably did nothing to stop those who were, or at least give them your complaints like you have these players.

If you want to call out all these players for their sitting or arm raising for the anthem and view it as disrespectful towards the country, those who have served for the country or overall patriotism, that’s fine. But remember you’ve probably at one point and time shown similar disrespect as well and maybe not even realized it. I have.

What some of us have done in the stands may not have been with the same intent as those on the field, but if we really took the national anthem as seriously as we claim it should be taken, stood in attention for and respected, then I don’t think we would have treated it so nonchalantly as we have (if you ever did) at a game before.

I mean, it’s just the thing to do, right? Stand up, gaze upon the Stars and Stripes and sing the song with our right hand over our hearts. It’s routine, ritualistic more than anything else — and it shows when people do things during the playing of it other than stand at attention.

If the argument is indeed that of the song or the flags’ sacred, respected nature, then we haven’t much room to talk in how we’ve disrespected it in our own way while attending games.

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