Jemele Hill, staff writer for The Atlantic and former ESPN commentator who sparked national controversy when she referred to President Donald Trump as a “white supremacist,” has called for an end to the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events, arguing that it has become a “weaponized” patriotic symbol.
In another article for The Atlantic, Hill lamented the NBA’s recent decision to enforce its policy on the National Anthem, reversing Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s decision to forgo having the anthem played ahead of games.
Playing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events has become an empty gesture of patriotism — so empty that, when the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks quietly began skipping the ritual, 13 preseason and regular-season games passed before anyone noticed.
“The Mavericks should have held their ground, because playing the anthem shouldn’t be a pregame ritual in American sports,” she wrote. “Not during a time when many people—including many athletes of color—are deeply uncomfortable with how patriotic symbols have been weaponized to undermine and diminish the humanity of Black and brown Americans.”
“Instead of forcing Cuban’s team to back down, the NBA as a whole should revisit its anthem rule. Other leagues should do the same. The ritual enforces a rote, narrow idea of patriotism—one that pro sports should be working to change, not uphold,” she continued.
Hill then recounted some of the national anthem’s checkered history, including the fact that its creator, Francis Scott Key, was a slave owner who once said that black Americans are “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Though the national anthem has long been a rallying cry for patriotism, especially during the Civil War, Hill argued its presence at sporting events was largely a machination of America’s Military-Industrial-Complex.
“The enshrinement of the anthem into sports ritual wasn’t entirely the result of teams’ or fans’ patriotic feelings,” she wrote. “In 2015, the Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake revealed that the NFL, Major League Baseball, and other pro leagues have received millions of dollars from the Defense Department for national-anthem performances, military-appreciation nights, and other activities promoting the military.”
Hill concluded that the enforcement of the “conservative definition of patriotism” in the wake of the Capitol Hill riot “just doesn’t seem right,” fearing that it will “embolden people who insist upon an exclusive form of patriotism.”
While Hill certainly takes issue with exclusive forms of patriotism, she has no issue with enforcing exclusive forms of American blackness. In 2020, when then-candidate Joe Biden said that black Trump supporters “ain’t black,” Hill said the comments were accurate.
“I don’t have a problem with the statement because he was clearly referring to this from a policy and track record standpoint. If you’re black and you support anti-black policies and positions, then that makes you …? You’re still technically black but you ain’t with us,” she tweeted.
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