MADISON, Wis. – The national anthem would have to be played before all sporting events held at Wisconsin venues that received any public funding, from Green Bay Packers games at Lambeau Field to beer league softball games at local parks, under a bill that a Republican lawmaker introduced Thursday.
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 earlier this season. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban agreed to play the national anthem after the NBA reiterated its policy to require the song.
“Hearing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner' at a sporting event reminds us that despite our differences, we have something in common — we are Americans,” Testin said in a statement announcing his bill. “This tradition traces its roots back more than a century – even pre-dating the song’s adoption as the national anthem. It’s a practice that unites us, and I believe it’s worth preserving.”
The bill simply says that, “No sporting event may be held in a venue the construction of which was financed at least in part from moneys contributed by a state agency or local governmental unit unless the event is preceded by the playing or singing of the national anthem.”
“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.
Testin did not immediately reply to a message seeking clarification.
No matter the scope, 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.
Testin said veterans groups the Wisconsin American Legion and VFW Department of Wisconsin support the measure, which would have to pass the GOP-controlled Legislature and be signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law.
Evers' spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the measure.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said that requiring the national anthem at all Texas venues that receive public funding will be among his top legislative priorities this session.
“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.
Although playing the national anthem before games is a staple of American sports at the professional and collegiate levels, it is far less common in other countries. Athlete protests of social and racial injustice during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a flashpoint between then-President Donald Trump and various leagues during his administration.