Assembly lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill that would require the national anthem to be played before all sporting events at Wisconsin venues and arenas that receive taxpayer dollars.
Under the proposal from Rep. Tony Kurtz, no sporting event may be held in a venue constructed at least in part with public money unless the event is preceded by the playing or singing of the national anthem.
“We are a very dysfunctional family at times that’s for sure — but we are a family,” Kurtz said on the floor Tuesday. “And what concerns me, once again to my core, is we are ripping ourselves apart internally in this country.”
Kurtz, a military veteran, said requiring the anthem to be played more often would remind Wisconsinites that despite deep political differences, all are part of one country.
“A part of me worries about that. When somebody says I’m not going to play the anthem — that does concern me. Because folks, whether you like it or not we are one big family and I want people to remember that,” he said.
The bill passed on a bipartisan 74-22 vote with only Democrats opposed.
“As much as I respect our flag, as much as I believe in this country, as much as I believe in our freedom, I’m not sure it makes sense to mandate that it be played,” Rep. Lisa Subeck said before voting against the bill.
Subeck said because the term “sporting event” is not defined in the bill, it could mean that every recreational softball game or pickup game of soccer in a city park would require it be played or sung beforehand and that would be unworkable in some cases.
Officials with the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association in their testimony on the bill said the group supports playing the national anthem but questioned whether implementation across all sporting events would be feasible.
“… This administratively could be unmanageable,” the group said in written testimony.
Rep. Don Vruwink estimated he has heard the national anthem about 2,500 times in his life as a former high school history teacher and coach. He voted for the measure but said he worries requiring the anthem so often may devalue its meaning.
“I want people to think about the words and what is being said,” he said.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen said the bill will promote patriotism.
“Can you teach patriotism? Yes, by singing this song you can and you can have the conversations about how great this country is,” she said.
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