On Friday night, the public address announcer at a high school softball championship game in Fresno, California announced that there would be no national anthem performed prior to the game.
The crowd erupted in boos at the announcement before performing an impromptu a cappella version of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” The Fresno Bee reports.
Players from Clovis and Buchanan high schools paused their warmups to face an American flag, and the crowd broke into cheers at the end of the rendition, according to the report.
Lack of anthem was protocol for the event schedule
Event coordinator Bob Kayajanian explained the decision to not have an organized rendition of the anthem planned for the game to the Bee.
“The national protocol is the first game of the session you have the national anthem,” Kayajanian said. “The games after that are just played. We got caught (off-guard). Both the teams turned to face the field and they all started singing the national anthem. They started to play some music, and the people took that as the national anthem and they all started singing, which I think is obviously a wonderful thing to show off their patriotism.
“We try to follow with what normally gets done. It’s all a learning experience for everyone and (going forward) we’re playing the national anthem at every game.”
National debate plays out in local softball game
This rendition of the anthem at a high school softball game warrants attention in the wake of the NFL’s decision to allow fines when players and team staff don’t stand at attention for the anthem. It’s a decision that was influenced by President Donald Trump and applauded publicly by Vice President Mike Pence.
Polling showed that the NFL decision was overwhelmingly approved by NFL fans, another compelling bottom-line rationale for the league to ignore the social justice issues players who knelt sought to bring attention to in favor of wrapping the game in the flag.
Patriotism vs. nationalism in American sports
Sports is the chosen battlefield for this debate. Nowhere else in American popular culture has patriotism morphed into nationalism so much as on the actual playing field.
While games in the United States have taken on an increasingly militaristic tenor, especially in the wake of 9/11, organized flag ceremonies would be out of place at most other public entertainment gatherings. There just isn’t this kind of ingrained association with what is a military ceremony for events outside of sports.
It would be a strange sight for a crowd to erupt in boos at a rock or hip-hop concert, a movie, a play, a dinner party or a wedding if the anthem wasn’t played. Prior to the recent NFL anthem debate and increased cultural divide in Trump’s America, it’s hard to imagine such a passionate response at a high school softball game.
As the “stick to sports” crowd shouts down traditionally marginalized voices who use public platforms like the anthem to peacefully raise awareness to worthwhile social issues, it is often quick to raise its voice when sports doesn’t stick to the norms it believes in.
While it’s easy to look at a moment like Friday’s in Fresno with patriotic pride, it’s disingenuous to not give thought to some of the deeper meanings behind why this is such a passionate issue to begin with.
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