A new Wisconsin bill up for a vote Tuesday in the state Assembly would make it illegal for some sports venues to skip the national anthem before games, reports WKOW.
“This country, for all the good we have had, for all the bad we have done – and we have – we are still one country,” said one of the bill’s authors, State Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc). “That’s why I want people to remember that.”
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 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 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, AP reported.
However, no penalty exists for violating the requirement; therefore, if the bar league softball team chose not to play the anthem, it would not face consequences under the proposed law.
Kurtz, an Army veteran, said he did not intend the bill to punish professional athletes who used the anthem as a way to protest, a trend that began with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he knelt during the anthem in 2016.
“I fundamentally disagree with that, and I should have a right to say ‘I don’t like that, but you know what? I served; thousands of others have served so that he could [kneel],” Kurtz explained.
If approved by the Assembly, the bill would also have to pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law. Kurtz said he hoped Evers would sign it.
“I do want awareness for the national anthem," Kurtz said at a news conference before the vote.
The sweeping proposal from Wisconsin 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 did agree 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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