A semi-professional soccer team in Tulsa says it will no longer play the national anthem before games, explaining that they want to be “more inclusive.”
Tulsa Athletic of the National Premier Soccer League says a line in the third verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner" referencing the death of slaves is hurtful and antiquated.
"After carefully reviewing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' lyrics and meaning, including the third verse which mentions 'No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave…,' Tulsa Athletic came to the decision that the song does not align with the club’s core values. While this verse is rarely sung, Tulsa Athletic does not believe 'The Star-Spangled Banner' represents or unites their diverse players, fans and community," the team said in a statement.
At a press conference Wednesday, team co-owner Sonny Dalesandro told reporters that the move was not intended to be divisive. In response to a question about expected blowback, Dalesandro said he had discussed the decision with veterans prior to the announcement.
"I understand what the national anthem represents to them," he said. "I also came to understand that what they fought very hard for was the ability for the people of the United States of America to stand here and do things like we're doing."
Dalesandro said the club will replace the anthem with Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."
"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" than the national anthem, the team's statement reads. "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."
Tulsa Athletic said the change will debut at an "Equality Cup" match against Minneapolis City. A date for the match was not given.