In Defense of “The Star-Spangled Banner”/by Chance Easterling
It is remarkable the uproar that occurs when two worlds collide, which is precisely what happens when political agendas enter the arenas – or should I say courts and stadiums – of professional athletics.
Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, announced recently that the national anthem would no longer be played before their games because the tradition did not represent all of its team members. This policy was short-lived. Not long after the announcement, NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass released a statement saying the national anthem is to be played at all NBA games, and I quite agree.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” has represented unity and inspired Americans since former President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order in 1916 declaring it the United States’ national anthem. In 1931, Congress passed Wilson’s executive order, and the song became the official anthem. Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer and amateur poet, wrote the lyrics during the battle of Fort McHenry in 1812, where he watched the British fleet unload its shells and rockets on the American fort with the “star-spangled banner” flying high through it all.
Now it must be confessed here and now that Key was not an innocent fellow. He was a lifelong slaveholder who fought avidly against the abolitionists’ cause while penning the phrase “home of the brave, land of the free.” Many people in the United States feel that for this reason they are unable to continue to support “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.
I see their point. However, we must hold words to a higher standard than we hold the people who either spoke or wrote them. Just because Key does not align with the ideals that we have about race and society today does not mean that his words do not.
Thomas Jefferson, when writing the Declaration of Independence, declared that “all men are created equal.” Despite being a slaveholder of Virginia, Jefferson’s words are still revered today because they are true. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. even used Jefferson’s very words in a multitude of his speeches fighting for racial equality during the Civil Rights era.
We cannot discount true words and ideals simply because their writer did not practice them accurately. That is up to us: we are challenged with taking up the gauntlet of the ideals of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Declaration of Independence and living them out in our daily lives. Banishing these inspirational texts can create nothing more than more division.
Sure, it is certainly one thing to take an activist’s stance by kneeling during the national anthem, but it is an entirely different situation when one removes the anthem itself and the inspiration it gives others. While many feel “The Star-Spangled Banner” does not represent them appropriately, there are quite a few who feel that it does. By removing the anthem altogether, Cuban would be robbing those fans who feel that it is their duty to stand and salute the United States for all of the liberties it provides its citizens. The NBA has allowed its players to kneel in protest, so it is only right to allow those who wish to salute their country the opportunity to do so before a game as well.