National Anthem Doesn't Make Sporting Events Patriotic

star spangled bannerWelcome to the U.S.A. where freedom of speech is the law of the land, but if you opt not to speak or, in this case, not to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a sporting event, you're sure to be accused of not being patriotic enough. Today, a tiny Christian college in Goshen (aka Goshwherethehell?), Indiana is at risk for being chastised because of this. Given their ties to the Mennonite Church, the school recently decided to nix the playing of the national anthem, after getting complaints that the song's "images of war and the military" undermined the school's pacifist message.

Goshen College's board of directors decided that it's time to find an alternative to the anthem, which instead "fits with sports tradition, that honors the country, that resonates with their core values, and that respects the views of diverse constituencies."

When they put it that way, I'm not sure how you can blame them for wanting to take a pass on the Francis Scott Key classic.


Even though the anthem is the conventional way for most sports communities to honor this great country of ours, playing it isn't and shouldn't be mandatory. As for Goshen College, I totally understand why they would want to bow out of using it. The lyrics come from a poem inspired by the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships during the War of 1812. Obviously, it relies heavily on "images of war and the military." It may make most of us think of becoming an independent nation, fireworks on the 4th of July, or of course, attending sporting events, but to the pacifists of Goshen, Indiana, it's a reminder of what they stand against: violence and bloodshed.

Say the NFL or MLB just up and decided that they didn't want to play the anthem anymore. Would it be an assault on tradition? Maybe to some people. But if those professional sports leagues didn't feel "The Star-Spangled Banner" didn't best reflect what they stood for, then that's their prerogative. I'm not saying I'd like the idea of skipping a patriotic tune altogether. But there are plenty of others out there that aren't so ... bombastic? Others that honor our country without invoking "bombs bursting in air."

If fans didn't like an alternative choice, they could stay home. And hey, consider hockey for a moment. In the NHL, they always play the Canadian national anthem in addition to ours. That's their community's decision.

Similarly, it should be up to each individual league or community’s values and view of the anthem whether or not they use it. More power to Goshen College!

What do you think -- should playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" be mandatory at sporting events?


Image via ruralgold/Flickr

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