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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Look Both Ways: National anthem at sports events

Lucy Atkinson
Two American flags and music notes rest under the words “Look Both Ways” and the topic of the week: playing the national anthem at sports events. Is the national anthem overplayed at sports events? (Lucy Atkinson | Northern Star)


By: Skyler Kisellus, Sports Reporter

I’m well aware that this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but here goes: The national anthem does not need to be played before every sporting event. 

I understand the need for it in events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl. But why do we continuously preclude low-level sporting events, between two teams from the same country, with the anthem? Every. Single. Game. It feels unnecessary.

I understand it’s a tradition that dates back to the World War II era, but there’s no binding obligation that holds the United States to traditions of old.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to attack the anthem itself. 

I respect the meaning behind it, and I respect each person’s right to stand, sit or kneel for it. But that doesn’t mean we have to do the same song and dance – just, without the dance – every time two sports teams compete on U.S. soil. 

Nowadays, the playing of the anthem feels less like an authentic demonstration of patriotism and more like a box needing to be checked. Its value has become understandably diminished, seeing as it’s played as early as Little League.

One can argue that playing the anthem is necessary to prove one’s patriotism. But if we, as a country, need to stand up, take off our hats and listen to a more than 200-year-old song to prove loyalty, that problem is a beast of its own that I’m not touching with a 10-foot pole. 

Let’s just take the anthem down a notch. Play it at international sporting events and championship competitions only. That’s all I ask.

To those looking to pick a bone with me for my controversial stance, I look forward to reading what can only be your kind words.

The NIU softball team and Toledo softball team line the baselines as an NIU student sings the National Anthem at the start of the softball game against Toledo on Friday. Students often sing the national anthem at the start of NIU sports games. (Totus Tuus Keely | Northern Star) 


By: Will Thiel, Opinion Columnist

Dialing back the national anthem at sporting events is out of mere pity and undermines the patriotic principles our country is built upon. If one holds true to the values of our nation, the conversation surrounding the anthem and sporting events is irrelevant.

The Star-Spangled Banner is set on repeat at American sports events, yes, but there are reasons that go past the historical origins of the piece. 

Our national anthem reminds us of our commitment to freedom and democracy while reinforcing the united front of support to our service members who defended this commitment. End of argument.

We play the Star-Spangled Banner to substitute for those who will never hear it again. American troops have given their lives for this country to represent our rights. It is a freedom that acts as tradition through an anthem we play to honor them at every sporting event, no matter the number of times.

There are also plenty of spectators who don’t watch many sporting events. The anthem creates an environment that not only excites the crowds but instills a pride for being there in the first place. It humbles us to appreciate what we have and what we no longer have.

I understand our nation has a poor history, marked by challenges such as slavery and inequality. Consequently, many may struggle to feel pride in an anthem that echoes such historical adversities.

Those feelings of struggle are OK because our nation has provided, and continues to provide, us with an opportunity to represent who we want to be: opportunities like peacefully protesting during our patriotic ode.

NFL superstars like Colin Kaepernick have used these rights to protest the national anthem. It is a separate conversation to be held, but the repetition of the anthem has allowed him and other professional athletes to protest.

That is the purpose of the national anthem, a freedom to represent and recognize the beautiful intrinsics of the United States of America. It allows athletes, spectators and our service members to deeply appreciate the liberties and values that define our nation.

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