The State of Wisconsin is poised to enact a bill which would require the national anthem to be played before any sporting event held at a stadium which receives public funding. The bill has passed with bipartisan support in the state Assembly and now must be approved by both the Republican controlled state Senate and the Democratic Governor Tony Evers. Supporters hope that the bill will be approved in the coming months.
State aims to require national anthem
The legislation was sponsored by Republican state Representative Tony Kurtz, a twenty year veteran of the United States Army.
Kurtz was inspired to pursue the legislation in response to a number of professional sporting events in which the anthem has been removed from pre-game procedures.
One instance in particular which inspired the bill was a game in which the Green Bay Packers stayed in their locker room while the anthem was playing.
Athletes and leagues around the country have been increasingly distancing themselves from the national anthem over the last year in response to BLM protests.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban notably ordered the team to stop playing the national anthem earlier this year before being told that NBA rules would require a change in policy.
Cuban has frequently expressed his opposition to playing the anthem before sporting events, arguing that the anthem does not represent everyone.
A largely symbolic bill
Wisconsin may now be forcing players and audiences to hear the anthem regardless of how they feel about the extent to which the Star Spangled Banner represents them.
The state would, according to Kurtz, only apply the policy to major sporting events. The lack of a definition in the bill sparked some concern that the law would be enforced excessively for minor occasions.
Kurtz assuaged the concern by explaining that he does not expect the law to be enforced for casual games or scrimmages.
College and professional sports are the main target of the bill, though concerns remain that vague wording in places could create a headache for minor events.
Democrats in the state who oppose the bill argue that it is only a publicity stunt, an admittedly valid point given that the bill would create no penalties for venues which continue to not play the anthem before their events.
Kurtz explained that the bill is intentionally symbolic and intended mainly to serve as a reminder to the people of the state that the national anthem should be played, rather than a strict requirement which would actually punish offenders.