In an interview with ESPN this week, Bruce Arena, the former coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team, said that it’s “inappropriate” for the national anthem to play before sporting events.
“I understand why people are kneeling,” Arena said. “We saw it with the women. We saw it in the NFL. I think if they’re respectful, it’s appropriate. I would tell you this: I’m the most patriotic person you’re ever going to be around. As the national team coach at times, the national anthem, I was in tears — honored to represent the United States in World Cups and international matches. And I think playing the national anthem is clearly appropriate at those levels.
“However,” he continued, “I question why we’re playing the national anthem in professional sporting events in our country. I believe the history of the anthem was that it was brought in after World War II to kind of celebrate the baseball players and the people and our soldiers that participated in World War II. And then it was obviously extended to other sports to where it is today.
“I think it puts people in awkward positions,” he said. “We don’t use the national anthem in movie theaters, on Broadway, other events in the United States. I don’t think it is appropriate to have a national anthem before a baseball game, an MLS game. But having said that, I want it understood: I am very patriotic, but I think it is inappropriate. And today it’s becoming too big of an issue.”
Arena perhaps makes a decent final point there, that we’ve turned the national anthem into some sort of patriotic litmus test at our football and baseball games. Over the past five years or so, it’s almost like we’re only playing the anthem so we can look around, see who is kneeling, who isn’t paying sufficient attention, who has tears in their eyes, etc. Performative patriotism isn’t all that impressive, and it’s even less impressive to turn the anthem into a showcase for racial activists who want to show the country how very woke they are.
On the other hand, we have a problem with this idea that it’s not “appropriate” to play the anthem. Why wouldn’t it be? Frankly, if there are people offended by the anthem, the flag, or any other symbol of this country, let them be offended. Why should everyone else change to suit their mood? We don’t like the idea of playing the anthem purely out of spite, but damn: Why is it suddenly so controversial to simply love America?
How many of our traditions and institutions have to die before the left is happy?