ESPN columnist: Cops singing the national anthem is a gross display of authoritarianism

Apparently, there’s been a shift towards authoritarianism at sporting events because law enforcement is participating is singing the national anthem. No, I’m not kidding—ESPN columnist Howard Bryant is somewhat unnerved by this spectacle seen prior to the start of a sporting event. The article (“The Unspoken Truth”) is not available online, but Clay Waters, who perused the piece, at Newsbusters broke down this peculiar view:

Policing is clearly one of the most divisive issues in the country – except in the sports arena, where the post-9/11 hero narrative has been so deeply embedded within its game-day fabric that policing is seen as clean, heroic, uncomplicated. Following the marketing strategy of the military, police advocacy organizations have partnered with teams from all four major leagues to host ‘Law Enforcement Appreciation’ nights, or similar events.


Nobody seems to care much about this authoritarian shift at the ballpark, yet the media and the public are quick to demand accountability from players they consider insufficiently activist. They blame these black players for not speaking up on behalf of their communities, ignoring the smothering effect that staged patriotism and cops singing the national anthem in a time of Ferguson have on player expression. It’s indirectly stifled, while the increasing police pageantry at games sends another clear message: The sentiments of the poor in Ferguson and Cleveland do not matter….While athletes are routinely criticized for “not doing more,” it is conveniently ignored how deeply their employers have mobilized against the most powerless elements of their fan base.

Uh, what? Seldom do fans think about sociopolitical contexts of who sings the national anthem prior to the start of a game. Most people are still in line waiting for burgers hot dogs, fries, chicken tenders, and most importantly beer. They want to see a good game, not debate whether a police officer singing the national anthem means we don’t care about Ferguson, Missouri—or something.

Waters noted that in 2015, Bryant took umbrage with the way in which the Chicago Blackhawks acknowledged Veterans Day:

There is not just deceit in these practices but also an insulting distortion of history and images. The Chicago Blackhawks ostensibly honored Veterans Day with a camouflage jersey containing the Blackhawks’ logo in the center, clearly uninterested in the colliding imagery — the systematic removal of native tribes occurred at the hands of the U.S. Army. Since 9/11, America has conflated the armed forces with first responders, creating a mishmash of anthem-singing cops and surprise homecomings in a time of Ferguson and militarized police. Tensions continue to mount in aggrieved communities, yet the LA Dodgers pandered to police by holding Law Enforcement Appreciation Night in September.

Give me a break, dude.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on