Given that most of the players are Black, why not precede football and basketball games with “Lift Every Voice and Sing?” The first verse is moving, inclusive, relatively sing-able, and doesn’t glorify bombs bursting through air. Fans singing along would be supporting their team “…till victory…”
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
I thought I’d had an original idea until I checked with Wikipedia and learned, “In Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ the song is sung by the audience and students at Maya’s eighth grade graduation, after a white school official dashes the educational aspirations of her class.”
The online encyclopedia also notes, “‘Lift Every Voice and Sing'” was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was set to music soon after by Johnson’s brother John in 1905. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it ‘The Negro National Anthem.'”
The second and third verses are specific to those whose forefathers were enslaved and who have faith in God. And they’re hard to get through without weeping.
YouTube has many renditions of “Lift Every Voice…” Most straightforward is the version provided by jsamruff, which scrolls the lyrics. Many performers do something special with the anthem. Ray Charles, the greatest piano player ever —backed by the Raelettes in pastel gospel gowns on the Dick Cavett show in 1972— modifies the words and jazzes it up. Aretha Franklin sings it slow and powerful.
The ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ was first played at a baseball game in 1918, when US Americans were fighting in World War I and there was such patriotic fervor that Gene Debs, the antiwar Socialist who got a million votes for President in 1916, was imprisoned for sedition. The hideous ballad was performed during the seventh-inning stretch of a World Series game between the Cubs and the Red Sox in Chicago. Fans loved it so much that the team made it a regular feature and ticket sales went up. Herbert Hoover designated it “the national anthem” in 1931.
The words “under God” were added to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s when patriotic/religious fervor had been whipped up by the Cold War against atheistic Communism. “Under God” broke the rhythm for those of us accustomed to saying “…one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
The singing of “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at baseball games was introduced in response to patriotic/religious fervor following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
The waves of fervor may subside a bit as the years ago by, but the pseudo-patriotic rituals never get retired. Sad.