Like the idea of rising for the flag, removing your hat and singing the anthem before a ballgame? You're participating in a "lazy" farce, according to USA Today columnist Nancy Armour. Concluding an 11-part series in the paper on what various writers would change in sports, Armour would give the Star Spangled Banner the heave-ho.
Standing at attention does not demonstrate a love of country or gratitude for those who serve any more than wearing an American flag pin does, Armour writes:
"Yet in the two years since Colin Kaepernick and other athletes began protesting during the anthem to draw attention to the racism and economic disparity endemic to our society, it’s become something of a patriotic litmus test. The kind of faux display of national pride better suited for countries run by dictators or despots."
The national anthem (see photo of Gladys Knight performing at 2019 Super Bowl) "can be a powerful unifier in times of crisis," as it was during World War I and the Gulf War in 1991, Armour writes. "But we are not at war now, and it will take a lot more than a song to bridge this country’s great divide."
So, because Kaepernick hates America and because the country is divided politically, the anthem has to go?
There's one more reason the Star Spangled Banner needs to get thrown out of the ball game: fans who are disrespectful during its playing.
"The truth is, most of us tuned out our national anthem long ago. Or lost sight of its supposed purpose," Armour claims. Maybe "most" people in the USA Today newsroom.
She even complains that singers who audition for the privilege of performing the anthem at sports events treat it as if they're trying out for American Idol. They draw out words for dramatic effect or punctuate their performance with hand gestures (she has a point there, but there's no accounting for taste.)
Since anthem protests began, Armour has been taking notes on fan behavior, too:
"And for the last two years, since the NFL protests began, I’ve watched the crowd at the games I attend to see what fans actually do during the anthem.
"While there are some who stand quietly at attention, their hats off, I’ve seen many others texting, taking photos, talking to their friends, looking for their seats or scanning the skies in anticipation of a flyover.
"I’ve even seen someone vaping during 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'"
There are also people roaming the concourses, using the restrooms and buying concessions. "And where to begin with the Kansas City Chiefs fans who rewrite 'home of the brave' with a loud shout of CHIEFS! Yet it’s Kaepernick and the players who are supposedly so disrespectful ... "
Armour writes that if the national anthem is so important it would be a part of our other civic and social activities, such as movies and concerts. And it would always be shown by television broadcasts of games. "But we don’t. Which means we don’t need it before our games, either," Armour says.
The Star Spangled Banner should give way to "ensuring our veterans have adequate health care" and to social justice: "Improving our underperforming schools so every child has an equal shot at success. Prohibiting discrimination, in all forms. It’s easier just to sing a song, I know. But that’s not patriotism, and we should stop pretending it is."