In response to acts of protest by athletes during the playing of the national anthem, some sports leagues have opted to simply forgo playing the Star Spangled Banner ahead of games.
But that solution may soon fail to fly in Wisconsin, where the State Assembly recently passed a bill requiring the national anthem to be played before competitions at all publicly funded venues in the state. According to The Washington Times, the measure passed overwhelmingly in the GOP-controlled chamber by a vote of 74–22.
If passed by the Wisconsin State Senate, the bill would move to the desk of Democrat Gov. Tony Evers for consideration.
A goal of July 4th
The bill was first introduced in Wisconsin by state Rep. Tony Kurtz (R), a U.S. Army veteran who claimed that among the inspirations for his proposal was an unsuccessful attempt by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to ban the national anthem in his Texas arena. (Cuban was ultimately overruled by the NBA.)
The Republican lawmaker also reportedly cited the decision by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers to remain off the field until after the anthem was completed during last season’s games.
In an interview with Fox News, Kurtz expressed his hope that the state Senate would quickly act on the bill in its next session in June, and suggested it could be signed into law by Gov. Evers by the Fourth of July.
“The national anthem, the flag, it’s very near and dear to me,” Kurtz explained, according to Fox. “To me, it’s something core to who I am. I know that might sound silly, but that’s just the truth. It’s something I truly believe in.”
A look ahead
The Times noted that Kurtz’s bill doesn’t specifically define what “sporting events” would be subject to the rule, leading some critics to wonder if it would apply to amateur leagues or even pick-up games or scrimmages. The assemblyman made clear, however, that his bill is meant to apply largely to professional and collegiate-level sports. There is also no penalty for noncompliance.
“I want people to do this voluntarily,” Kurtz told Fox. “And if they still want to sit there, that’s fine. If they want to get on one knee, which I disagree with, they can. So I don’t want to put a penalty, because I think that is crossing the line, to be honest with you. My goal is just kind of to reiterate to people the importance of this and why it matters.”
According to the Washington Examiner, the measure was backed by all of the Wisconsin Assembly’s Republican members, but Democrats in the state legislature were split on the issue.
It remains unclear whether the state’s Democratic governor will sign the legislation into law.
In the meantime, a similar measure that would require professional sports teams with contracts in the state to play the national anthem at the start of games is currently being considered in Texas. The Texas Senate passed the bill back in April, also with some Democrat support, the Examiner said.