Republican Lawmakers Push to Require National Anthem at Sporting Events


The national anthem would have to be played before all sporting events held at Wisconsin venues that received any public funding, from Green Bay Packers games at Lambeau Field to beer league softball games at local parks, under a bill that a Republican lawmaker introduced Thursday.

The proposal from state Sen. Patrick Testin of Stevens Point and two GOP colleagues comes after the Dallas Mavericks did not play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before home games earlier this season.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said it was his decision and issued a statement on the team’s website in which he said he feels the anthem “does not represent” many Americans.

“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them,” he said. “We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.”

Cuban agreed to play the national anthem after the NBA reiterated its policy to require the song.

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In a statement announcing his bill in Wisconsin, Testin said, “Hearing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at a sporting event reminds us that despite our differences, we have something in common — we are Americans. This tradition traces its roots back more than a century — even pre-dating the song’s adoption as the national anthem. It’s a practice that unites us, and I believe it’s worth preserving.”

The bill simply says, “No sporting event may be held in a venue the construction of which was financed at least in part from moneys contributed by a state agency or local governmental unit unless the event is preceded by the playing or singing of the national anthem.”

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“Sporting event” is not defined, raising the question of whether the anthem would have to be sung every time someone gets together for a pickup game of football at the city park or plays a softball game on a municipal field.

Testin did not immediately reply to a message seeking clarification.

No matter the scope, there is no penalty for violating the requirement.

Testin said the Wisconsin American Legion and VFW Department of Wisconsin support the measure, which would have to pass the GOP-controlled Legislature and be signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law.

Evers’ spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the measure.

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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said that requiring the national anthem at all Texas venues that receive public funding will be among his top legislative priorities this session.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” wasn’t played regularly at professional sporting events prior to its designation as the national anthem in 1931, although it grew in popularity after a dramatic airing at the 1918 World Series during World War I.

By the end of World War II, the NFL ordered it played at every game, and the tradition quickly spread to other sports as part of a wave of postwar patriotism.

The current wave of divisive athlete protests during “The Star-Spangled Banner” started with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

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