The stars and stripes should be reserved for international sporting events
Editor’s Note: The original post where this article appeared has since been deleted, so we brought this post to The Sports Bank before it was deleted. It was originally working in summer 2020 and we have now updated it in some places.
Political marketing was my favorite course when I was in college, and many lessons learned from that course stick with me to this day. I have chosen jingoism, extremist patriotism and all things red, white and blue marketing as my dissertation topic for this specific course.
Although I wrote this article during the Bush 43 administration, the ideas received at the time are still as relevant today. Studying the Star Spangled Banner as well as anyone else who takes the National Anthem too seriously, I saw that the storyline to Francis Scott Key’s tune was long lost. We really don’t need it to be played at every sporting event anymore. It should really be reserved for international competitions only at this stage.
When American football legend and FOX Sports commentator Alexi Lalas gave his very bad opinion, via Twitter, on the subject, then later apologized, I really felt that the whole thing had jumped to the shark. Much like Drew Brees, you have a sports icon who doesn’t get it, then goes back and seems extremely forced to. Of course, what the anthem really means or is/was meant to mean is something that’s been long gone.
Now, the most meaningful part of this exercise is speculating who will stand or kneel for it. You can even make prop bets, with bet codes available. Don’t take my word for the anthem outliving its worth at sporting events – just listen to former United States men’s soccer head coach Bruce Arena.
“I wonder why we play the anthem at professional sporting events in our country…it puts people in awkward positions,” said Arena, currently head coach of Major League soccer club New England Revolution ( a team about as patriotic or jingoistic a brand identity as anyone in American sports.
“We don’t use the anthem in movie theaters, on Broadway, in other events in the United States. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have a national anthem before a baseball game or a MLS game.
Arena highlighted how many MLS players were born outside the United States
“In MLS, most of the players on the field during the national anthem are international players. They’re not even Americans. So why are we playing the national anthem?… Having said that, I want it to be understood , I’m very patriotic, but I just think it’s inappropriate, and today it’s becoming too big of an issue.
“I understand why people kneel…if they’re respectful, it’s appropriate. I am the most patriotic person you will ever meet…Honored to represent the United States in World Cups and international matches. I think playing the national anthem is definitely appropriate at those levels.
I couldn’t agree more! For nation against nation, ring the stars and stripes as loud as you want! For a group of sports mercenaries loosely affiliated with my city against a group of sports mercenaries loosely affiliated with your city, let’s just forgo the anthem.
The longer we don’t have sports, due to the federal government’s mishandling of the pandemic worse than every other nation on Earth, the more time will be filled with sports personalities saying stupid things about the stars and stripes and more We’ll grow from all the hot takes, reactions and reactions to reactions. Better to give up and move on.
Long before much of the population fully understood what Colin Kaepernick and company were trying to say by kneeling during the playing of the anthem, the meaning of the ritual was bastardized.
Specifically, it has just been sold. The anthem became synonymous with paid patriotism, as “meetings” between members of the armed forces and their families took place in the field.
It is amazing that the military-industrial complex believed that the general population would not understand these publicity stunts, as if people would somehow be too stupid to realize that these “meetings” were all put together for the cameras.
Most of the time, these are sponsored by the Boeings, Lockheed-Martins and other defense contractors.
Simply put, it was just sponsored content that you had to stand up for, just like all sports network programming during July 4th, Memorial Day, Patriots Day, Flag Day, and Veterans Day.
The latter is where it intensifies the most, as November usually brings the most extreme nationalism to the sports world.
Although the Indianapolis 500 is really on its own.
Before the race there is an onslaught of rituals and patriotic chants, and the level of excess is truly something to behold. Regardless of your view of the national anthem, I would recommend seeing it at least once, as it’s the most interesting part of the annual show. Here’s the 2018 Indy 500 pregame set list (includes a BIG use of taxpayer dollars using one of the most expensive planes in history!)
The military does a lot of recruiting and publicity in the sports world, and it pays clubs and networks generously to do it. Really, that’s what it’s all about – money and that’s it!
It’s publicity, but it comes in the guise of nationalism. You’ll notice that Arena mentioned several times how patriotic he was, while advancing his position.
It’s necessary these days, if you want to say something like that while minimizing the damage to the individual brand. You gotta do Jeff Winger’s ‘Community’ campaign applause line –
“If you ask me what my favorite color is, I’ll tell you it’s a three-way tie between red, white and blue.”
You are not supposed to use Old Glory for gross marketing purposes.
The American flag code reads as follows:
“The Flag Code deals with the impropriety of using the flag as an article of personal adornment, a design for articles of temporary use, and clothing. The obvious purpose of these suggested restrictions is to limit the commercial or common use of the flag and, thus, to maintain its dignity.
Exploiting the flag, with contrived publicity stunts, is American like apple pie. Raising the flag at Iwo Jima photo-opp was about as fraudulent as Enron. I suggest you watch the film “Flags of our fathers” to learn more about this subject. Kaepernick was right, he was way ahead of his time and the NFL is now as close as it will ever be to admitting it.
However, those who thought he was taking a sacred ritual and defiling it fail to realize that the so-called purity of it, which never really existed in the first place, was long gone.
When debating these topics, remember the words of Teddy Roosevelt:
“Patriotism means being with the country. It does not mean standing with the president or any other official, except exactly to the extent that he himself stands with the country. It is patriotic to support him as long as he effectively serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that, through inefficiency or otherwise, he fails in his duty to stand with the country. Either way, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America”, as well as “No I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons From A Lifetime In The Sports Media Industry.”
He has appeared regularly in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Grandstand, and he co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast, part of the Edge of the Crowd network. Follow him and the site on Twitter and Instagram.
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