In response to Mavericks, Texas bill calls for requiring national anthem at publicly funded events

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The Mavericks, at owner Mark Cuban’s directive, stopped playing the national anthem before games this season. But shortly after anyone noticed, the NBA said all teams would play the Star Spangled Banner. Cuban’s Mavericks complied without public complaint.

Situation over, right?

Nope.

It’s never too late for an opportunistic politician to jump on the controversy.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick:

AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that the Star Spangled Banner Protection Act, Senate Bill 4, will be among his legislative priorities this session. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the national anthem is played at all events which receive public funding:

“It is hard to believe this could happen in Texas, but Mark Cuban’s actions of yesterday made it clear that we must specify that in Texas we play the national anthem before all major events. In this time when so many things divide us, sports are one thing that bring us together — right, left, black, white and brown. This legislation already enjoys broad support. I am certain it will pass, and the Star Spangled Banner will not be threatened in the Lone Star State again.”

We’ll see the actual text of this bill. It might not apply to the Mavericks, who are a private company that plays in a publicly funded arena. It also might be unconstitutional, as freedom of speech still exists.

But even if the bill is narrowly tailored and somehow found constitutional, “events which receive public funding” is incredibly vague. When will the Star Spangled Banner be required?

Before every meeting of the Texas Legislature? Before every class in public school? Before every police patrol?

It can get far more absurd quickly.

Beyond technical implementation, this is just awful on principle. State-mandated patriotism is the worst kind of patriotism, because it isn’t actually patriotic. The government forcing the playing of the Star Spangled Banner is an authoritarian exercise that runs directly counter to the freedoms we should be celebrating. (It’s also a hypocritical priority for someone who calls himself a limited-government conservative.)

I don’t really care whether the Mavericks or any NBA team plays the national anthem. Though I personally find it a good time to reflect on where our country stands, the anthem is too often used to feel good while ignoring the United States’ shortcomings and cudgel anyone who shows “insufficient” fealty to the flag. It’s just a song. And a basketball game between American teams – aside from tradition, which, granted, isn’t nothing – isn’t the most logical time to play it.

Sports can unify people. But Patrick is wrong to imply sports automatically bring people together. Even while playing in the NFL, Collin Kaepernick didn’t feel unified with parts of our country. The many athletes – including NBA players – who followed his lead in kneeling the national anthem didn’t feel the unity.

Politicians like Patrick should spend their energy addressing the issues that actually divide us rather than requiring the playing of a song just so they feel unified for a few minutes.