Why Is The National Anthem Still Played at Games?

Last week I attended the Knicks-Jazz game at Madison Square Garden.  I have been to three events there recently,  a Rangers game and a Madonna concert being the other two. If you are not new to American pop culture than you know that the only event of the three that did not begin with the Star Spangled Banner was the Madonna concert, unless you count Bob The Drag Queen calling a sold out crowd “bitches” to be a national anthem.  Of course if the Madonna concert had begun with the SSB it would be assumed that it was some subversive attempt by Madonna to “go woke” or “tarnish our nation,” because coupled with the faux outrage by Fox News would also be a fairly obvious truth: it is absurd to begin events like this with the National Anthem. This is not about racism arguments about the anthem itself, or the military funding to have it played, or any other issue beyond the fact that it is a total farce.

Several years ago (2017 or 2018 perhaps –  I cannot quite remember) I began a headlining set by getting on stage to a Kanye West song and decided to stand with my hand over my heart for an extended period of time (whenever it was, it was before Kanye’s extended fling with Anti-Semitism). The idea was born during a conversation I had had on my podcast to show the absurdity of beginning a pop culture event with any kind of salute to a song.  Of course in reality the bit was 1) not as funny as I thought it was, 2) missed by many in the crowd and 3) not looked upon kindly by some in the crowd who believe that mocking the sanctity of saluting the flag before a baseball game is blasphemous.

But, despite half the country having racist seizures due to Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the anthem to protest police brutality against Black people, it seems to me that saluting the flag at sporting events is actually, based on observing the attendees, not that important.

During the Knicks game various men shouted out during the anthem.  It seems there are always a dozen or so (white) men at sporting events who use silent moments to scream support for the team, presumably to maximize their moment for either ego or humor.  It is the sort of disrespect and hypocrisy during the presumed moment of secular reverence that I would analogize to partisan political speeches given by pastors in houses of worship. And a majority of every sports arena cheer and clap before the song is over.  Yet none of the above mentioned men (or women) are scolded, shunned, escorted out of the arena or fired by their bosses.

But basketball is a “woke” sport (translation: full of Black people who occasionally speak their minds for social justice).  A better example is the hockey games I have attended.  NY Ranger games are diverse when compared to Sebastian Maniscalco crowds, but not much else (I am a fan of Maniscalco, but when I attended his MSG show in 2019 I thought I was at a “Don’t Cancel Columbus Day” rally).  And boy do those January 6th alternates in attendance of Ranger games LOVE to scream and shout during the anthem.  Where is this respect for anthem?  I understand that they are being joyful for their team, but what does that have to do with respecting the troops, or whatever the reason given for the flag salute and Kaepernick’s banishment?  Kaepernick was being silent and reflective, but that is more disrespectful than shouting “Let’s fu*king go Rangers!”?

My simple point (which I cannot be the first to make, but I promised the fans a blog every week this year – PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT!) is what the hell is the anthem still doing being played during games?  This forced patriotism (where aggressive, rude white guys are presumed to be in the right spirit, no matter how uncouth their behavior and vocals during the anthem) would seem dumb before a concert (and was, in fact, dumb before a comedy show) but simply because of tradition (and an undoubtedly apocalyptic reaction from right wing media if it was ever stopped) we are held hostage by it before every sporting event. It should stop.

  • Hilary

    Agree absolutely.
    In Europe and the UK the National Anthem is only played at an International match, not a domestic one.

    However, nothing brings out bad behaviour in the British (at home and abroad) like the German National Anthem

  • Teri

    JL, this is so spot on, and made me laugh out loud! I agree with you 100%. My son is in the military right now, an officer in the US Navy. I know that he or the rest of our family thinks that the national anthem at games is not a “supportive of troops” gesture. It’s a ridiculous attempt at “patriotism” . I never go to games, and it seems that a lot of the people who attend games are very similar (mostly white, rich enough to afford the games, or pretend to be, and thus conservative because they have enough money that they can’t bear to part with in other ways, such as social programs to their fellow Americans). I do have relatives that wholeheartedly support Trump and his ilk, and yes, I can comfortably say they are racist. Btw, none of those relatives have served in the military and many of them benefit from government programs (federal jobs, city jobs, Social Security, etc, etc). But, of course, you see, they are the ones who DESERVE those things. Not THOSE OTHER PEOPLE!! AKA, black and brown folks or even the Eastern Europeans in my neighborhood who are recent immigrants who are on programs and do not speak English. I always want to tell these relatives, “don’t worry those white Eastern Europeans will be MAGATs soon enough and join you guys in white supremacist thinking!” Thanks for your awesome content, you are a haven for me in my white trash surroundings!

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Glad you liked it and I hope your son stays safe!

  • GreenHeart Gardener

    I agree. My MIL was a huge sports fan, spent many many afternoons and weekends at her children’s sports events and her GKids too. She became an expert at critiquing the performance of each “singer”. Mind you, she was a music major, but she could also release some excellent snark. Maybe someone in the music industry can write some songs for sporting events, MODERN songs, non-denominational, etc.
    Good blog. Say hi to Cookie for me.

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