Politicians are fond of wrapping themselves in the flag and doing a bit of grandstanding in the hopes of currying favor with constituents.
Even if it’s meaningless.
Such was the case last week when state Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, put forth a proposed state law that would require the national anthem to be played before all sporting events held at any venues that receive any public funding.
Sen. Testin came on the heels of similar legislation in Texas, where another “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act” was proposed after the Dallas Mavericks did not play the anthem before several home games earlier this season. The non-playing, ordered by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, went unnoticed for weeks because there were no fans in the stands due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It was also short-lived. Once it came to light, the NBA directed Cuban to comply with the league’s rule which require playing the anthem before basketball games. But by then, Texas lawmakers already saw their chance to make political hay and set about crafting legislation to attack some of the Mavericks’ tax breaks in light of Cuban’s “anti-American” decision and vowed that “ ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ will not be threatened in the Lone Star State again.”
Testin took up the call here in Wisconsin, saying: “This tradition traces its roots back more than a century — even predating the song’s adoption as the national anthem. It’s a practice that unites us, and I believe it’s worth preserving.”
That, of course, ignores the fact that professional sports teams have struggled for the past five years over protests by African-American athletes and supporting players during the anthem in an effort to bring attention to racial injustice. Now, many NFL teams stay in the tunnel until the anthem is played to avoid controversy.
But the fact is “The Star Spangled Banner” is already played before all major sports events here in Wisconsin, both professional and collegiate sports, and Testin’s proposed bill would have no effect.
Nor does Testin’s bill have any teeth. It carries no fines or penalties for violating the proposed law.
As it’s written, the bill does not define “sporting event” and could conceivably include beer league softball games in city parks, perhaps even pickup games among friends. Bring your pitch pipe to the field.
So let’s check the boxes. Testin’s bill would have no impact on current practices at major sports events in Wisconsin; it has no teeth; and it is poorly written.
We will continue to stand during the anthem, as we have always done at Lambeau Field, the newly renamed American Family Field and other sports venues. As the anthem plays, we’ll often think of fathers, mothers, brothers and others who have served our country and put their own lives on the line to protect and preserve our country’s freedoms.