Note: this first appeared in the RightWisconsin newsletter on February 25. On May 12, the proposed bill passed the Wisconsin Assembly and was sent to the state Senate.

What are your favorite Star-Spangled Banner moments? I have a couple. 

For my tenth wedding anniversary, the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha and I went to Washington D.C. We saw the original Star-Spangled Banner, which inspired our National Anthem ,at the Smithsonian Museum. It was a very moving experience. The lights are kept low to prevent further light damage to the flag, and that helps with the reverent mood of the display. My wife and I couldn’t even speak until we left the display room.

I’m also the proud parent of a daughter who (with her choir) sang the Star-Spangled Banner before two different Milwaukee Brewers games. It was worth putting up with the Chicago Cubs fans.

On the other hand, I’ve certainly been guilty of imperfect attendance for the National Anthem at sporting events. When I had Milwaukee Brewers season tickets, my friend and I would joke as we entered the stadium, “What’s that noise? Did you know they were going to play music before the game today?”

Fortunately, attendance at the National Anthem was not mandatory, or we would have missed a lot of games.

Unfortunately, Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) and Rep. Scott Krug (R-Town of Rome) would make the actual playing of the National Anthem mandatory at sporting events in venues partially funded by the taxpayers. The legislation is in response to Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban has stopped playing the National Anthem before their home games.

I sympathize with the legislators, but this is a terrible idea.

I don’t even believe it’s constitutional under the First Amendment to force private businesses to engage in government-mandated speech. At the very least, at a time when Republicans are complaining about private limits on speech such as the removal of controversial accounts and postings from Facebook and Twitter, it’s odd that any Republicans would turn around and require private organizations to engage in speech that they wish to avoid.

But imagine if it was constitutional. Would a Democratic legislature have the right to tell the local Little League playing at a municipal ball field that they have to sing the Cuban national anthem? Or play a speech by President Joe Biden? Or a speech by Governor Tony Evers?

And what is the goal? To force businesses to be more patriotic? To force the fans to be patriotic? The players?

Republicans are outraged when players disrespect the Star-Spangled Banner when a player chooses that moment to kneel in protest. Let’s not disrespect what our flag stands for, freedom. Even if that’s the freedom to not honor our flag before a sporting event.

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