The national anthem is an integral part of sports, providing patriotic spirit at thousands of events annually. Performances often become spectacles with military flyovers and flag ceremonies accompanying its performance; at major sporting events it may provide as much entertainment as the game itself!

But how did a 200-year-old song about a flag become such an integral part of sporting events, from high school games to professional championships? Why do we play it tens of thousands of times annually across sports settings ranging from high schools to the pros?

As it turns out, World War I holds much of the answer to these questions. When the Star-Spangled Banner became a tradition at Major League Baseball games in 1918, it provided a much-needed uplifting element during a time of national mourning for war-related deaths. So popular was it with crowds that eventually all teams in MLB required teams to perform it prior to each home game from then onwards.

At this time of rising nationalism in America, it seemed natural to create an anthem that united the entire population and celebrated their country’s past patriotism. Over the decades that followed as America engaged in more wars, this song quickly gained in popularity until becoming part of professional sporting events as well as high school and college games – now becoming part of daily rituals at most major league home games as well. Today most major leagues play the anthem before each home game while this practice also extends to minor league games.

As America’s national anthem becomes an ever-more-prevalent presence, its ubiquitous nature also led to an emerging American pastime: criticizing those who do not stand or respect our flag during its performance. Baltimore Orioles manager Arthur Ehler began using this tactic back in 1950; by 2016, Colin Kaepernick had used this platform to draw attention to police brutality against Black people and other social injustices, leading many more athletes to follow his example and use their own national anthem as a platform against police brutality against Black people as well as other social injustices; more athletes followed suit in his wake – inspiring many more athletes to participate!

But it’s time for us to pause and consider how we do things around here, including how we perform our national anthem. After all, if all it takes to “respect the troops” is following an inebriated person’s orders to take off your hat during the performance, that falls far short of meeting any reasonable standard of respect for those who serve our country – there are far better ways than this to show appreciation: volunteering with veterans advocacy groups or pressing our lawmakers for changes at VA.

Instead of continually forcing our national anthem into sports contexts, it would be more effective if it were separated out completely from sport-related use. Let’s save its use for those rare instances when it can truly foster unity and pride within our nation – perhaps this COVID-19 pandemic provides just the impetus necessary for North American sports to eliminate its use altogether!