A Wisconsin bill to require the national anthem to be played before all sporting events at fields and stadiums that received public funding passed in the state Assembly in a 74-22 vote Tuesday, with strong bipartisan support.
Such sites include major, taxpayer-subsidized venues where the Packers, Bucks and Brewers play, as well as public schools and other facilities that were built or upgraded with taxpayer funds.
The bill will go on to the state Senate, which Republicans control, where it could be sent to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ desk.
“I think their next session is in June,” the bill’s Republican sponsor, state Rep. Tony Kurtz, told Fox News Tuesday. “So I think they would take it up, and maybe the governor can sign it on July 4. That would be pretty great.”
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Kurtz, a 20-year Army veteran, said he came up with the idea in response to the Dallas Mavericks’ decision earlier this year to stop playing the national anthem before home games. Another catalyst was when the Green Bay Packers chose to sit in the locker room during the song before a game in September.
The Mavericks have since resumed playing the song due to NBA rules.
“The national anthem, the flag, it’s very near and dear to me,” Kurtz said. “To me it’s something core to who I am, I know that might sound silly, but that’s just the truth. It’s something I truly believe in.”
The legislation does not define what constitutes a “sporting event,” raising questions about whether the anthem would need to be performed before a pickup basketball game or casual sports, but Kurtz said the intent is for major sporting events like professional and NCAA Division I games.
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“I don’t expect you, if you have a scrimmage, to play it before for a scrimmage,” he said. “But I do expect you play it for a [University of Wisconsin-Madison] Badgers game.”
During an emotional floor speech before the bill passed the state Assembly Tuesday, Kurtz argued that the national anthem is one thing that can help unite the country during a divisive political climate.
“This country, for all the good we have had, for all the bad we have done – and we have – we are still one country,” he said. “I want people to remember that.”
Democrats who oppose the bill have argued that it’s a political stunt or a solution in search of a problem – even as the measure is largely symbolic and imposes no penalty for venues that fail to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an event.
Kurtz dismissed those criticisms – noting that it was institutional actions, like Mavericks owner Mark Cuban choosing on his own to stop playing the song, that prompted him to draft the legislation, not Colin Kaepernick kneeling.
“I want people to do this voluntarily,” he said. “And if they still want to sit there, that’s fine. If they want to get on one knee, which I disagree with, they can. So I don’t want to put a penalty, because I think that is crossing the line, to be honest with you. My goal is just kind of to reiterate to people the importance of this and why it matters.”
“The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem in 1931 – but it had already been played at some sporting events at the time, including the 1918 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs in a season shortened due to World War I.
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A band played the song during the seventh-inning stretch during Game 1 – and Babe Ruth threw a complete game shutout, according to the Hall of Fame.
What’s more American than that?
The Associated Press contributed to this report.