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Should the national anthem still be played before sporting events?

EDMONTON (CityNews) – National anthems have been part of the pre-game routine for decades, dating back to baseball games during the Civil War. Playing the anthem was often a support of the war effort.

But could the clock run out on this sports tradition?

It was reported that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wanted to scrap the anthem at his team’s home games. But that hit a sour note with the NBA, which overturned his decision. 

Fans calling into Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 sang the idea’s praises. 

“Did not expect to see Mark Cuban’s stance met with overwhelming support,” said Will Nault at Sportsnet 960.

The anthem debate truly sparked back in 2017 when Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest of systemic racism and injustice – a movement spurred further by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Times when you walk in, the anthem’s being played, and what are you doing? You’re walking to get a beer, you’re walking to get cash, you’re walking to get food – isn’t that just as disrespectful as kneeling?” said Nault.

But the anthem’s future is just one part of a broader equation.

“You can do as many protests and symbolic things, but if it’s not leading to meaningful change, then that’s the real question,” said Irfan Chaudhry from the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity at MacEwan University.

“Usually in the work of equity inclusion, when you have strong leadership support, that’s where you can get some momentum. So I think in that regard it’s encouraging to see some owners who aren’t of racialized backgrounds take a stance such as this one.”

And while anthem supporters cite its patriotic importance, its practice is uniquely North American.

“It is not an expectation in other countries around the world and in other sports that we hear the national anthem,” said Ken McLeod, author of We are the Champions: The Politics of Sports and Popular Music.

While leagues aren’t likely to change their tune any time soon, the anthem debate could follow a path carved out by other seismic changes in sports culture.

“When I think back to five years ago, with things like the racialized sports team names, I didn’t think that was going to change – as racist as that was – but things have slowly started to change,” said McLeod.