The controversy of taking a knee instead of standing for the national anthem at professional sports games in America continues to widen, but there is an all to obvious solution: Abolish anthems at all professional sporting events completely.
At first glance the suggestion is a mind-blower and ‘no sir’ many will proclaim “I don’t like it one bit.” That’s because it would seem impossible or offensive for many flag-loving, patriotic American or Canadian who are accustomed to the tradition of taking their hats off and belting out an off-key rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, America The Beautiful, God Bless America or O Canada.
My indecent, unpatriotic but truly modest proposal comes in the wake of United States’ President Donald Trump’s latest war of words with players in the NBA and NFL – and now this writer included - over their support for Black Lives Matter. BTW I’m down with them on this!
The latest twist in the pitifully polarizing anthem-saga happened heading into this weekend following President Trump’s racially-charged comments at Friday’s campaign rally in Alabama, where among other ridiculous comments he criticized African American Athletes and others for refusing to participate in pregame anthems. Not surprisingly there was an angry backlash from many high-profile athletes and fans alike.
Then came the latest revolting news from the Commander In Chief’s Twitter account overnight on Friday, when ‘Forest Trump’ angrily withdrew Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry (SP) invitation to the White House via social media.
As actor Tom Hanks would put it in his epic role: “Stupid is as stupid gets” Donald! Not only does the latest episode in this pathetic oval office soap opera need to be cancelled (not to mention impeachment proceedings) but perhaps it is time for America and Canada to end its tradition of playing national anthem before sporting events.
Sure, this is a major mental leap for those who don’t like having their furniture rearranged to clean out the stale, stinking cold-war-era crap from under the couch. But consider this: The practice of playing national anthems at professional sporting events in Britain, Europe, South America and even Mexico, simply doesn’t happen.
That’s right, all soccer fans know this fact because none of the rest of the world’s other sports teams follow this practice for club matches. Instead the anthem is a tradition reserved only for international matches and competition like the FIFA World Cup.
When English Premier League Club’s march out onto the field there is an anthem played. At West Ham United it is Waltzing Matilda and Liverpool has its famed You’ll never Walk Alone anthem forever linked to the storied club. The same scenario exists across Europe and the rest of the world as well. Let’s face it folks many people come to sports matches and watch sports on television to escape politics and other unpleasant realities of life. They are meant to be apolitical.
So the question Americans and Canadians (such as myself) should really be asking is who will be the first professional sports owner to attempt to heel these wounds and have a temporary or permanent moratorium on national anthems before games? The owner could risk fine from league executives provided it is in their constitution; but could also stand to gain a tremendous amount of fan support for their moves.
It raises the interesting notion that you can be more patriotic by not being so patriotic. If you really believe in the ideas embodied in the United States constitution and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms you may even consider not playing the anthems part-and-parcel to Freedom of Speech.
Sure the towel waving of rabid fans after the anthem is played and the opening puck drop, tip-off, pitch or kick-off is stirring. But then again we’d have missed out on the not-so-great moments like Rosanne Barr ear-drum-tweaking version or Carl Lewis unforgettable voice cracking episode with the Nets or the national flag of Canada being displayed upside down at venues such as Yankee Stadium. Another benefit, of no national anthems would also be that we would have been spared this ridiculous unfolding controversy coming from the White House.
Perhaps the void in the national anthem would help build more support for the home team as can be clearly witnessed before the start of any soccer game. Or teams on this side of the pond could have their own anthems and songs played.
The seed is being planted on this blog because it needs to take root. And now, I’m hoping that somewhere in our sports universe of MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS teams there is an owner with the courage and determination to follow through with it. Sure the thought of it would make a team owner like the old Marge Schott roll over in her grave and draw scorn from many of the fat rich white men who own professional sports team; But perhaps there is some renegade or maverick owner out there who has the balls to align themselves with many of the athletes who play for their teams and fans who support them.
They could and likely would be deemed “Un-patriotic” or “Un-American”, face a backlash and threats from the far right including Tweets from the President for trying this stunt or death threats from the lunatic fringe. But perhaps there is a city or a community in North America worldly enough and forward thinking enough to do it where there wouldn’t be a backlash? San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal are you listening?
For sure any owner attempting an anthem ban would earn the respect of those who stand for social justice, racial equality, gun control, peace and unity.
And would that be such a bad thing? I’ll take a little bit of all of those things at the moment because the world needs it right now. At least the game of soccer has taught me the value of this and it’s a message I’m hoping others consider.