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Tulsa soccer team announces it will no longer play national anthem before games

Jack Baer
Writer

As the conversation around racial injustice continues to dominate American politics, one soccer team is dropping “The Star-Spangled Banner” from its pregame routine.

Tulsa Athletic, a team in the semi-professional National Premier Soccer League, announced Wednesday it will be replacing the national anthem with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” at home matches.

Problematic line in national anthem behind Tulsa Athletic’s decision

In their statement explaining the decision, the team pointed to the little-known third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” which includes the lines “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave … ” Given those lyrics, Tulsa Athletic said “the song does not align with the club’s core values.”

The “hireling and slave” line has been interpreted by some as a reference to the Colonial Marines, a unit of escaped slaves recruited by British forces in the War of 1812 that helped overrun Washington D.C. and set fire to the White House.

From Tulsa Athletic:

“From our beginning, we have developed a culture of inclusion and acceptance at Tulsa Athletic,” said Sonny Dalesandro, co-owner of Tulsa Athletic. “We live in a country that allows us to freely speak our voice. We utilize this right as a club to continually try and improve our team and community. We believe ‘This Land Is Your Land’ not only captures a powerful patriotic sentiment, but that it does so in a far more inclusive way. The song speaks to this country being built and shared by every person of every race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. It represents a future Tulsa Athletic is committed to striving for.”

Fans will be encouraged to sing along with “This Land Is Your Land” at Tulsa Athletic matches with “all forms of patriotic expression” being welcome.

The tradition will reportedly begin with a special “Equality Cup” against Minneapolis City in Tulsa.

USMNT coach has also criticized use of national anthem

Tulsa Athletic isn’t the first voice in soccer to take an issue with “The Star-Spangled Banner” at matches, as former USMNT coach Bruce Arena called the playing of the song “inappropriate” last week.

However, Arena wasn’t referring to the “hireling and slave” line at the time. He simply took issue with playing the song before sporting events when it is rarely seen at other forms of live entertainment.

Tulsa Athletic deemed a little-known line in "The Star-Spangled Banner" as unacceptable. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

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