The National Anthem and College Athletics Controversies

September 6, 2016

Colin Kaepernick is the National Football League quarterback who has set off a national debate by refusing to stand for the national anthem. In the past, some colleges have faced controversies over playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before athletic events.

  • Goshen College in 2010 broke with its past practice and started playing the national anthem before athletic events. The move was controversial because many alumni see the anthem as glorifying war and inconsistent with the college's pacifist, Mennonite faith. In 2011, the college said it would look for an alternative to the anthem. Later that year, the college announced that it would play "America the Beautiful" instead of the national anthem "because it fits with our national sports tradition and honors this country, while better resonating with our Christ-centered core values (passionate learning, compassionate peacemaking, servant leadership and global citizenship) and respecting the views of our diverse constituencies."
  • In 2009, a student sued Macalester College for several reasons, one of them his allegation that he was kicked off the football team for refusing to remove his helmet while the national anthem was played. The student said his action was a protest of the George W. Bush administration's war in Iraq. Macalester officials acknowledged an incident of some sort over the anthem, but said that the student left the team voluntarily and that the college had never punished anyone related to head coverings during the national anthem.
  • In 2011, the University of Connecticut experimented with asking fans at basketball and football games to say the Pledge of Allegiance before the national anthem. Reaction was mixed. A spokesman for UConn said that the effort was abandoned after one season.

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