The NFL announced last week it would require players who are on the field before the game to stand for the national anthem. The decision sparked a lot of contentious debate in the media, which made us wonder: Do Americans still believe it’s important to play the anthem before games?
Well, if what happened recently in Fresno, California is any indication, fans still consider “The Star-Spangled Banner” to be an integral part of the game — so much so they were willing to sing it even though event organizers wanted to skip it.
According to the Fresno Bee, the situation in question happened when Clovis High School and Buchanan High were playing a championship game at the softball diamond at Fresno State University.
When an announcement was made that there would be no anthem before the game, the crowd was genuinely upset.
In fact, they actually started booing.
“Honestly, I was shocked (when) the announcer stated, ‘There will be no anthem, let’s just play softball,’” fan Tiffany Marquez of Fowler, Calif., told the Bee.
But instead of just booing, the crowd broke into song.
“Within seconds, you could hear people in the crowd singing and the volume of their voices building,” Marquez said. “There I was, standing in the middle of a true testament to unity and patriotism.”
According to David White of the Bee, it was an incredible sight.
“Hundreds of softball fans took to their feet and spangled away, singing the anthem a capella while the players on the field stood at attention toward the centerfield flag,” White said.
White said the crowd’s reaction was a powerful message of what the anthem means to people.
“Oh say, can’t you see? The national anthem and the flag it adores still matter to a whole lot of people, and they take it personal when anyone comes between them and the star-kissed stripes. Some are obnoxious, ugly Americans, no doubt. Most of the others happen to think you can stand against social injustice (we do) and stand for the national anthem (we do, too),” White wrote. “Since when did the concepts become so mutually exclusive? Does anyone think anthem protests have started anything more than an argument that can’t be won?”
We wholeheartedly agree.
The national anthem protests in the NFL have accomplished little more than shaving a few points off the league’s TV ratings and make its partners antsy. Have the protests made us aware that some people are unhappy with certain aspects of this country? We already knew that.
Did their wholesale rejection of one of the unifying symbols of this country engender any more sympathy for them for those sitting on the fence? Not a whit. What it did was turn fans away in droves — and the free market eventually spoke.
There are very few things that we can come together about as Americans. Our anthem ought to be one of them.
When an entire crowd can sing along when the song is omitted, we know there’s something special and unifying about “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and those who died defending it. That’s something to remember this Memorial Day.
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