Why the NFL should ban singing national anthem at games

When I met Patrick, I was a sports agnostic. Sure I dabbled in a few of the traditions by occasionally flipping the channel to a Red Sox game, watching University of Maine hockey when they won the Frozen Four and calling in sick the day after the NCAA college basketball championship, but overall I was not a devotee.

Then I had an epiphany when Patrick exposed me to the National Football League denomination, and I became a convert, attending regular Sunday meetings raising my voice in adoration of the New England Patriots. I embraced all the rituals this entailed – gobbling a plate of nachos, sipping from a frosted beer mug, and dribbling salsa on an official NFL jersey.

I was in good company with thousands of disciples cheering in the stadium and millions watching from home as our gods performed miracles each week on the field, rising from the dead to secure five super bowl rings between 2002 and 2017.

But something is amiss in the sports arena these days. And it has to do with the first amendment to the United States Constitution that establishes the separation of church and state.

Legend has it that the first time anyone sang the Star Spangled Banner at a sporting event was at a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox. It was 1918 and World War I was raging while some privileged white guys played it safe, running around bases scoring runs.

During the seventh inning stretch, the band played the Star Spangled Banner, and by the time the song progressed to ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ players and fans were singing in unison.

The Red Sox thought it was such a hit they started opening all their games with the Star Spangled Banner and a precedent was set to kick off sporting events with the famous lyrics of Francis Scott Key.

In retrospect this was folly, as Thomas Jefferson warned when he wrote in 1802: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

I see this as a great opportunity for our wall loving President to build a structure between the Religion of Sports – which has far better attendance these days than church services – and State. Instead of a see-through wall, this would be soundproof, so no strains of The Star Spangled Banner could defile our day of rest with political controversy.

The Religion of Sports should be separated from the Star Spangled Banner. Photo courtesy PIxabay, edits by author

Besides the legal aspects, there is an even more compelling reason to build a wall between the Star Spangled Banner and sports convocations. Can I be the only one who has to close my eyes and plug my ears, so I don’t toss my nachos while witnessing the revulsion of a pop singer butchering this song? The only people I’ve seen nail this complicated piece of music were Renée Fleming, the opera star, and Daniel Clark, the singing trooper, executing high G’s with the grace and beauty they deserve.

What song could be an appropriate substitute while restless believers anticipate deities spilling onto the gridiron like sacrificial lambs going to slaughter? How about sports superhero Peyton Manning singing, “Nationwide is on your side?” Five words, catchy jingle, and an earworm exorcism during halftime.

That’s what I call a win-win situation.

What do you think about the NFL Star Spangled Banner dispute? Could you support my heretical idea to ban it altogether at football games?

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38 thoughts on “Why the NFL should ban singing national anthem at games

  1. It’s ridiculous that the National Anthem is sung at any sporting match that isn’t the Olympics. Only at the Olympics will you find a team solely represented by US citizens. You’re not going to find that in the NFL or the MLB or the NBA or the NHL or the MLS so why are we playing the anthem? I am so sick of arm chair patriots who are drinking beer and dribbling nacho cheese sauce down their chin while the anthem is being sung. And all the while they are complaining about men who are kneeling in protest over the number of black men being shot by police.

  2. Legend has it that F.S. Key set his lyrics to a British drinking song, which has always made me wonder how many drunks in any given pub (the British do have a tendency to sing when they’re drunk) have the range to hit both the high and the low notes. Or maybe getting plaster increases your range. Or at least your ability not to hear what you really sound like on that high note.

    • I have also heard that this was a British drinking song, which would explain why no one realized how bloody difficult it is to sing the song when sober. Next time some pop singer butchers this song before a football game, I’ll have to be sure I’ve had a couple to deal with the pain. Or I could just wear earplugs! thanks for the great comment, Ellen.

  3. As always Molly, you stimulate reflection… and not shallow at all.

    I did not know the history of how singing the anthem began at sports events in the US. Thanks for sharing that. Seems marketing, not patriotism, was as alive then as is the purpose of the NFL controversy now for our marketing king president.

    I support your idea to extend the opportunity to advance the exercise of separation of church and state which was intended to unify us as countrymen despite religious differences. Churches need to remember that amendment goes both ways and not bring divisive political views into worship. The Crusades were fought not as portrayed for the advancement of Christianity over Islam but actually for the political power of the leaders in those warring countries who used their peoples religious beliefs as a call to arms.

    One possible cause for falling Church attendance may be that it too often exposes us to ministers who try to advance their state/political views more than scripture. Or worst yet, use scripture to support their political view — i.e. Pat Robertson and the 700 Club.

    • I totally agree with you about keeping politics out of the pulpit. It is dividing the United Methodist denomination big time. Our local pastor is careful to separate but we attended a service in Pittsburg and I thought I was attending a political rally. And I hate how scriptures are taken out of context to support political views. There have to be some safe havens for those of us who are nauseated from politicizing absolutely everything!

  4. I think they should ban sports and keep the National Anthem?. Just kidding! Not sure what happens at UK sports events apart from the crowds chanting songs en masse that make them sound like mindless yobs. There is a row going on at the moment because fans are ‘singing’ a rather racist song about a black soccer player’s penis when he is on the pitch. This is England at it’s finest ?The authorities are now looking through CCTV footage to try and identify people to prosecute. Do your fans do that sort of thing in he US? I don’t remember any bad behaviour at Canadian sports gatherings.

    • Wow, Gilly, that is taking bad fan behaviour (notice British spelling of behavior) to a whole new level. I’m sure there is some of that going on in the stands at our sports events. I watch the sanitized version on network television so I miss all that, thankfully. If it gets any worse, I will support your idea to ban sports and keep the anthem! Nice twist.

  5. Interesting angle, Molly. I too have suffered through some atrocious renditions of the National Anthem before sporting events. You can forgive sour notes at local venues; but a professional team should have access to the best of the best singers. There was one singer who offered a spectacular version though; and that was Whitney Houston. I’ve forgotten the exact event – maybe a Super Bowl? – but it was so special they later sold CDs of the performance.

    • You are a wonderful singer, so the sound of these pop singers grinding through a song they should never sing, is like fingernails on a chalk board to you as it is to me. I’ll have to look up Whitney’s version. I’m glad to know there has been at least one pop singer who was up for the task.

  6. This country is in a sad state of affairs when as you mention, sports has a greater attendance than church services. Time for people to get their priorities in order!
    By the way, I live in Maine too.

  7. I asked the whole congregation to sing “Let There Be peace on Earth” at my first wedding–and we know how that contact sport (marriage) ended, so I’m thinking you’re onto something by separating the two!

  8. I’m thinking a AC/DC song TNT pretty much sums up professional sporting events. I say everybody sing along to help their team get primed for the game. Don’t take my suggestion too seriously since I sincerely hate football, and am not much of a fan of the rest of the professional sports.

  9. I think that most nations must sing their national anthem before important sports matches. I rather like it when the SA national anthem is sung and I am not to fussy about how although it does usually have an African flare.

    • That could work, Bette. But first we’ll have to get the attendees attention. Rumor has it while the players are kneeling, sitting and standing, the fans are talking, drinking, and munching on nachos. :0

  10. You’re so funny, Molly. For years I attended the Church of NBA Celtics. Then they started free agency and the whole religion fell apart. Everyone was switching congregations and it was hard to stay connected to a particular set of saints. For a while I joined the UCONN Women’s cult and attended all masses, but then I moved to the west coast where they’re not available of Sunday Worship TV. *Sigh*. Oh, the anthem? Um… the kerfuffle is interesting. I’d rather we all sang “Let there be Peace on Earth.” Now that would raise some feathers!

    • I like your suggestions, Diana, to sing “Let there be Peace on Earth.” So funny. The first time I typed this I typed, “Peach on Earth.” Haha! Maybe that should be your theme song. Anyway, I can understand how you became disenchanted with organized sports. Once you’ve been damaged by an organization that is meant to provide comfort and joy, it is hard to go back into those halls of fame. I like ruffling feathers! Unless it’s my backyard hawk. He scares me.

      • I tend to make the same typo. Another one my fingers insist upon – instead of “sense of humor” they type “sense of human.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the send button and groaned.

    • I like to question things, Karen, and I like that you do, too. How did we ever mix sports with patriotism? I mean, my favorite team is named ‘The Patriots” but I can forget about this when I get absorbed in the game. About the only patriotic thing these teams do is pay taxes and support the economy, right?

  11. If Peyton Manning might sing, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady might consider warbling the theme from “The Brady Bunch.” But, seriously, I totally agree that banning the national anthem at sports events is a good idea — a point you made persuasively and humorously.

    • I am pumped to have at least one person agree with me, Dave. And I like the idea of Tom singing the theme from “The Brady Bunch.” I’m going to send this blog post to what’s-his-evil-name – the commissioner of the NFL.

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