by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, recently decided the national anthem would not be played at Mavericks’ home games, citing his desire to listen to voices of “those who feel that the anthem doesn’t represent them.” But to me, a Chinese immigrant, Cuban’s decision did not feel inclusive, but ignorant of what the anthem does represent.
I never went to a professional sports event when I was growing up in China. At the time, all professional teams were run by the Chinese government, and athletes were treated as state employees. Most of them began their training at a young age, as soon as their physical talents were “discovered.”
The state claimed ownership of them and their talents, stealing their childhood and forcing them to attend special government-run facilities. …
… The first time I attended a professional sports game for sheer entertainment was in May 1996, a few months after I moved to the United States. My school’s international business club organized a trip to Baltimore, which included attending a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. I had never been to an outdoor stadium, not to mention a baseball game. …
… I noticed that everyone around me, regardless of their skin color or what team’s jersey they were wearing, all put their right hands over their hearts. Those who wore hats took them off, including players on the field. Many people seemed to sing along quietly until, when the singer came to “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” a big roar of whistles and claps erupted.
I didn’t understand much about baseball back then, but I was deeply touched by the American pride and patriotism around me. It was obvious to me that such pride and patriotism wasn’t coerced by the state, but a genuine expression by free people.