Editorial Board: Give teams the choice to play the national anthem


Faith Pauken

Lincoln football players kneel during the national anthem on Mike Walsh Field before a game against Madison, Sept. 22, 2017.

Over the course of the United States’ history, many citizens have viewed the national anthem as the foremost symbol of patriotism.

Since 1918, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the World Series (and especially due to a resurgence in its popularity following WWII), the song has been a staple at sporting events around the nation— including at Lincoln sporting events such as football games.

No team, however, should be required to play the national anthem at all.

In early February, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, made the choice to stop playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before regular-season games. When the NBA realized this, they issued a statement reaffirming their policy that required teams to play the song.

The fight over the anthem perpetuates partisanship when the country is arguably more divided than it has been since the Civil War. Conversations about the song have proven to be a flash point between the right and the left. Conservatives belittle athletes for using their platform to protest and liberals condemn those critics.

The full national anthem includes the lyrics: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” These lyrics, which condone slavery, make the anthem a poor representation of patriotism for many Americans, and we on the editorial board find it foolish to let a wartime tradition from over a century ago exacerbate the partisan divide in our country.

Over the past five years, the national anthem has caused more divisiveness than ever before

During the 2016 NFL season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem for every regular-season game. He was soon released from the team and has been effectively blacklisted from the NFL since then.

Instead of being forced to play the anthem, coaches and players at all levels, including here at Lincoln, should sit down and discuss as a team whether it is the right choice for them. Some teams will choose to keep it, but others could choose to play a different song instead like “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Some teams might opt out of playing any song at all, directing their attention to the actual game and competitions.

Nearly every high school football team in the United States plays the national anthem. While it’s somewhat understandable that the NBA and professional leagues have policies in place for uniformity, it’s unnecessary for high school teams to follow this precedent.

We are not advocating for the removal of the anthem entirely. The problem is that many people who support the anthem believe that when athletes kneel, they are implying they don’t respect the people who do stand for the anthem.

Perhaps this can change someday and those who disagree can form a mutual understanding with each other. Until then, however, the divisiveness will cause more harm than good.