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National anthem requirement for pro sporting events gets House support

Balls from various sports.
Ian McKinnell
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Getty Images
Both Florida legislative chambers are moving ahead with a measure that would require professional sports teams to agree they’ll play the national anthem before games and events if they want to receive state or local government funding.

Both legislative chambers are moving ahead with a measure that would require professional sports teams to agree they’ll play the national anthem before games and events if they want to receive state or local government funding.

The House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee voted 12-4 — with four Democrats opposed — on Tuesday to approve the proposal (HB 499) by Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota. The bill mirrors a Texas law, dubbed the Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act, that went into effect in September.

The Texas law was crafted after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in November 2020 instructed his team to stop playing the national anthem before home games. Cuban’s action came after a number of players breached NBA rules by kneeling during the anthem to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to protest against systemic racism in the U.S.

Gregory, who said he was unaware of any teams currently refusing to play the anthem, said the proposal is “a small ask” of teams and about “unity, it’s about patriotism, it’s about contract law.”

The bill would prohibit government agencies from entering agreements with professional teams without written verification that the anthem would be played.

The proposal seeks to ensure the anthem would be played before such things as preseason, regular-season and post-season professional baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and football games. Also, the requirement would apply to NASCAR and IndyCar events held in venues with at least 75,000 permanent seats and professional golf tournaments.

A Senate committee last week approved the Senate version of the bill (SB 1298).

Eight stadiums and arenas across the state are each drawing up to $2 million per year from a state program: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami; TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville; Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg; Amelie Arena in Tampa; the BB&T Center Sunrise in Broward County; Raymond James Stadium in Tampa; American Airlines Arena in Miami; and the Amway Center in Orlando.