Cancel the Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events

October 23, 2017

The tradition of playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sporting events began in 1918 during Game 1 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Since entering World War I more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers had died. And just a day before the game, a bomb had exploded in Chicago where the game was held, killing four people and injuring dozens. Additionally, the U.S. government had recently announced that it would begin drafting major league baseball players.

During the seventh-inning stretch, the U.S. Navy band began to play "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Red Sox infielder Fred Thomas - who was in the Navy and had been granted furlough to play in the series - immediately turned toward the American flag and gave it a military salute. Other players turned to the flag with hands overs hearts and the already standing crowd began to sing. As a result of the enthusiasm, other baseball teams began to play the song on holidays and special occasions.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" became the U.S. national anthem in 1931, and by the end of World War II, the NFL commissioner ordered that it be played at every football game, quickly spreading to other sports.

By 1954, Baltimore Orioles General Manager Arthur Ehlers was bemoaning fans he thought disrespected the anthem by talking and laughing during the song. He briefly stopped playing the anthem, but relented to pressure and reinstated it a month later.

Is playing The Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events relevant now? I don't think so. We are not at war, we no longer have conscription, and there is nothing patriotic about attending a sporting event. Eliminating the playing of the anthem would, thus, eliminate the controversy over "taking a knee."

Ed Harner
Rehoboth Beach


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