- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2013

A panelist who appeared on a segment of ESPN’s “Around the Horn” discussion said sports games would be a lot better if they didn’t open with the National Anthem.

University of Maryland professor Kevin Blackstone made the comments during discussion of the new football uniforms at Northwestern University that have images of blood-spattered American flags, in honor of Wounded Warriors, The Blaze reported.

He said the country should quit playing the “war anthem” before athletic events — and also said the NFL has only furthered the “mythology” of Pat Tillman, an ex-Arizona Cardinals player who gave up his sports career to join the military, The Blaze said. Mr. Tillman was killed during service.

The segment Mr. Blackstone appeared on featured sports commentators from different parts of the nation giving a “Buy” or “Sell” label to certain topics — in this case, the Northwestern football jerseys.

“I’m going to sell,” said Mr. Blackstone, The Blaze reported. “And if you sell this along with me, you should also be selling the rest of the military symbolism embrace of sports — whether it’s the singing of a war anthem to open every game, whether it’s going to get a hotdog and being able to sign up for the Army at the same time, whether it’s the NFL’s embracing of the mythology of the Pat Tillman story. It’s been going on in sports since the first National Anthem was played in the World Series back in 1917 and it’s time for people to back away.”

When a panelist tried to disagree with the characterization of the National Anthem as a war song, Mr. Blackstone said, The Blaze reported: “You are conflating a war anthem with a simple game. And when you have military flyovers and all the other military symbolism that goes on in sports, I think you’ve got a problem.”

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This isn’t Mr. Blackstone’s first try to halt the National Anthem at sports events. In a 2011 piece he penned for AOL, he wrote: “If our lawmakers don’t sing it every day to begin the country’s business, spectators of a mere sporting event shouldn’t be forced to sit through it, either.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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