A baseball fan filed suit yesterday against the New York Yankees for ejecting him from a game last year during the singing of “God Bless America.”
I have never understood why we sing the national anthem at sporting events. What’s so patriotic about a baseball or football game?
The tradition began in the 1918 World Series, according to one source, when the live band during the seventh inning stretch erupted unprompted into the Star-Spangled Banner, which was not declared the national anthem until 1931. Fans applauded and when the series returned to Boston from Chicago, the Red Sox owner scheduled the song to be played before the game. But until WW II, it was only played during special games. Once technology allowed for pre-recorded renditions and to support the troops, the song became a prelude to every baseball game. Other sports eventually picked up the tradition.
Then after 9/11, teams started playing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. But the Yankees took this forced display of patriotism one step further, forbidding fans from leaving their seats during its playing.
Enter – or should I say exit — Bradford Campeau-Laurion. According to his suit against the Yankees and the New York police, he left his seat to use the bathroom during a game last August and was stopped by New York police and thrown out of the stadium.
The ACLU has taken up his case. He says he shouldn’t be forced to be patriotic according to others’ standards or to be religious. He has good company.
Campeau-Laurion said in the interview he told the police “’I don’t care about ‘God Bless America.’ I don’t believe that’s grounds constitutionally for being dragged out of a baseball game.”
He declined to characterize himself as either an atheist or agnostic.
“I simply don’t have any religious beliefs,” he said.
Irving Berlin, who wrote “God Bless America,” was an agnostic, according to “Irving Berlin: A Daughter’s Memoir,” written by his daughter Mary Ellin Barrett and published in 1994.
Try doing anything but stand quietly and look respectful during the singing of the anthem or “God Bless America.” One is forced to display this contrived patriotism.
It reminds me of our son’s high school policy regarding the moment of silence students are required to display before class starts. No one, the school administration said, must adhere to the moment of silence, but they are asked instead to “remain quiet” during it. In other words, you don’t have to be silent, just keep quiet.