In America, the game doesn’t begin until the national anthem plays. It’s no a mandate, it’s just a fact, as culturally ingrained together team colors and touchdown cheers.

The anthem kicks turn off every NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and NHL game featuring one American team, and is played before every NASCAR race.

The legacy runs deep, and it’s straightforward to forget that wasn’t always this way. It’s likewise easy to forget that, when there room game-day expectations about how we should handle ourselves throughout the anthem, yes sir very little actually set in stone.

The nationwide anthem wasn’t constantly played prior to sporting occasions …

here’s a fascinating fact: The nationwide anthem was played at baseball gamings decades prior to it was in reality the national anthem. Over there are records of “The Star Spangled Banner” gracing the diamond going ago as far as 1897, yet the tune wasn’t adopted as the nationwide anthem until 1931.

end time, a mix that technology, war, and also keeping increase appearances retained the tune in the sports spotlight. Its very first big minute reportedly come in 1918 during the 7th-inning stretch that the world Series.

it’s no coincidence that its very first surge in popular came throughout wartime. Nationalism stoked by people War I expected that human being were an ext affected by the song, and also the fact that significant league baseball players to be being proactively drafted expected those who weren’t drafted benefited from mirroring their patriotism. Over time, other sports began adopting the practice.

historian Marc Ferris composed a history of the national anthem in which he points out that, in ~ first, the anthem didn’t exactly come free.

“The point is, you had actually to hire a band,” he told NPR in 2016. “That was expensive, so that was just for special occasions,” like opening day.

Ferris claims that after people War II, sound systems permitted teams and also parks come play the anthem sans band. That’s as soon as the practice became specifically widespread, since the brand-new tech corresponded with a large swell in patriotism.

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Athletes from every sports now line up prior to games to watch the national anthem.
After civilization War II, the commissioner of the NFL at the time, Elmer Layden, make a specific plea to save the anthem as a game-day tradition.

“The playing of the nationwide anthem need to be as lot a part of every video game as the kickoff,” that said. “We have to not drop the simply because the battle is over. We must never forget what the stands for.”

… and NFL players absolutely didn’t always stand on the sidelines for it

if the anthem continued to be a game-day fixture, NFL players typically stayed in the locker room because that it.

There were exceptions, of food – football player observed the anthem ~ 9/11, and also during Super key games. Yet it wasn’t till 2009 the players to be mandated to it is in on the ar for the song.

The us Code states you must stand because that the anthem

section 301 that the United states Code says that during a rendition the the national anthem, world “should face the flag and also stand at attention v their appropriate hand over the heart” (except for uniformed military personnel, who must stand and also salute because that the size of the song). If you wearing a cap you’re supposed to take it it off.

If no flag is on display, human being are supposed to challenge towards the resource of the music and also behave in the exact same manner.

there’s a separate US Code ar for exactly how to respect the flag, implying that the anthem and flag, while regularly presented together, are different patriotic entities.

weird enough, the united state flag password doesn’t cite the anthem at all. It does cite the Pledge of Allegiance, which “should be calculation by standing in ~ attention facing the flag with the appropriate hand end the heart.”


… however there’s no such dominion in the NFL rule book

In the “2017 official Playing rules of the national Football League,” there room no particular directives for what players should do throughout the national anthem. In fact, neither the anthem no one the flag are ever mentioned.

yet what about an individual protest? The rule publication does touch top top that, but not in any way that might be checked out as details to kneeling throughout the anthem.

Under post 8, section 4, titled “Equipment, Uniforms and Player Appearance,” it says:

throughout the duration on game-day the a player is visible to the stadium and also television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and also during postgame interviews in the locker room or ~ above the field), players are prohibited indigenous wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in composing or illustration, uneven such message has been approved in breakthrough by the organization office.


There to be money behind few of the NFL’s previous patriotism

In 2015, a Senate report exit by Senators john McCain and also Jeff Flake poured cold water on few of the much more heartwarming moments of patriotism seen in professional sports.

The report found the department of Defense had actually spent $6.8 million on what they called “paid patriotism” in between 2012 and also 2015. This money was spread out among 50 pro teams from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, MLS and also others.

In exchange for the money, teams organized screens of national pride including flag presentations, the honoring of armed forces members, reenlistment ceremonies, and also even the most unassailable and also uplifting that patriotic moments: surprise army homecomings. To it is in clear, many of teams also do, and also have done, such things with no compensation.

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but the connection in between “paid patriotism” and players gift mandated come be current for the anthem is tenuous. The report does point out several instances where teams were paid for anthem performances, yet that was about the particular artist or presentation. Over there is naught in the report to suggest teams were paid or coerced into pulling football player on come the field as part of “paid patriotism” initiatives.

In fact, Pentagon spokesman Army major Dave Eastburn newly clarified the Defense Department’s current relationship with skilled sports.

“DoD does not require or request the athletes it is in on the field during the play of the national anthem when armed forces members are component of the patriotic opener,” he claimed in a statement come

“Community relations participation, such together flyovers, color guards, and military band support, are unpaid activities. DoD does not pay outside parties to host such community outreach activities.”