Vote requiring national anthem: Wisconsin lawmakers to weigh in

Photo by Joshua Hoehne via Unsplash

The national anthem would have to be played before all sporting events held at Wisconsin venues that received any public funding under a mostly symbolic bill up for a vote Tuesday in the state Assembly.

The sweeping proposal received bipartisan support in committee, even as a group representing parks and recreation areas across the state questioned whether it was an unmanageable mandate.

The requirement would apply at all levels of athletic events played on a field that ever received public money, from a bar league softball game at the local park to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

"Sporting event" is not defined, raising the question of whether the anthem would have to be sung every time someone gets together for a pickup game of football at the city park or plays a softball game on a municipal field.

There is no penalty for violating the requirement, so even if the bar league softball team skipped the national anthem, there would be no repercussion under the law.

The Wisconsin Parks and Recreation Association said it supported the intent of the bill, but questioned the need for it and how it would be implemented. The Wisconsin American Legion and VFW Department of Wisconsin backed the bill.

If approved by the Assembly, it would also have to pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law.

State Rep. Tony Kurtz, the Republican co-sponsor of the measure, said he hoped Evers would sign it.

"I do want awareness for the national anthem," Kurtz said at a news conference before the vote.

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The sweeping proposal from state Sen. Patrick Testin, of Stevens Point, comes after the Dallas Mavericks did not play "The Star-Spangled Banner" before home games last season. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban agreed to play the national anthem after the NBA reiterated its policy to require the song.

"When a billionaire can say at his whim, ‘I don’t want to play it,’ that’s a problem," Kurtz said, "I’m proud of our national anthem, I’m proud of our flag, I’m proud of our nation and I’m not afraid to say you need to play this."

"The Star-Spangled Banner" wasn’t played regularly at professional sporting events prior to its designation as the national anthem in 1931, although it grew in popularity after a dramatic airing at the 1918 World Series during World War I. By the end of World War II, the NFL ordered it played at every game, and the tradition quickly spread to other sports as part of a wave of post-war patriotism.


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