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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LPR

Jeff Landry: Here's what my position on LSU and the national anthem really means



Recently, many have misconstrued my comments in the media regarding the importance of respecting and recognizing our national anthem.

First, Americans should respect our flag. Too many of our countrymen and women have died serving under it, and the playing of the national anthem at any ceremony should be solemn — allowing us to reflect on the importance of our freedoms and those who have sacrificed it all for them.


As your governor and a veteran, I recognize the importance and significance. I also know that our collective respect for the flag showcases to the world that our states believe in America. This allows us to be united, rather than divided.

Second, at no time was the intent to suggest that coach Kim Mulkey or LSU’s players were less than patriotic because they weren’t on the court while the national anthem was played. In fact, I called on the NCAA to look into standardizing the event management within college sports because what happened was unfair to Mulkey and the LSU women’s basketball team.


We should never have a situation where one team is on the field or the court for the national anthem and the other is not. Either both teams should be on hand or neither should be. Otherwise, it will be interpreted by many observers exactly as this was: that the team not on hand isn’t patriotic.


That is not right!


As coach Brian Kelly said last week, he’s been at several places before LSU; and in decades of coaching, he can remember only a few times in which his team was on the field for the playing of the national anthem. There isn’t a standard associated with that spectacle; it varies greatly among schools and teams. Kelly also said that his football team would stand proudly for the anthem if a decision were made that they should.


I commend him for those comments.


The tradition of playing the national anthem at sporting events dates back to the 1918 World Series. At the time of Game 1 in Chicago, more than 100,000 Americans had died in World War I. The mood among the American people was dour. What’s more: The day before the game, someone or some group had set off a bomb in Chicago’s federal building and four people were killed. We all unfortunately know what a terrorist attack will do to morale, and the game began in a morose fashion ... until the seventh-inning stretch.

The U.S. Navy band began playing "The Star Spangled Banner," not even yet our national anthem. 


Red Sox infielder Fred Thomas was in the Navy. He’d been granted a furlough to play in the World Series. When the band began playing, Thomas immediately turned toward the American flag and gave it a military salute. That inspired other players to turn to the flag with their hands over their hearts. Before anybody knew it, the entire stadium was singing the song. The crowd erupted in thunderous, unified applause.

That was it. From then on, "The Star Spangled Banner" became a mainstay at sporting events for a very obvious reason: It’s a way for us to recognize that we are all uniquely American.


I look around today, and I see so much division — so much controversy. Too many are addicted to the negative. But the national anthem is something positive; it’s moving. Chris Stapleton’s version of the anthem before the Super Bowl last year left barely a dry eye in the house.


I want that here in Louisiana. I want our great student-athletes to be proud and enjoy the experience of seeing big crowds share feelings of love of country and love of each other. It is my hope that Louisiana’s public colleges adopt a custom of having our sports teams on the field or the court for the national anthem. Because being American is more important than whether we’re Tigers, Bulldogs, Jaguars, Cajuns, Cowboys, etc.


There are many important issues facing our state and nation. As your governor, I am tackling issues related to crime, government reform, education improvements and economic growth.  


While we work on these important issues and enjoy a game together as participants and spectators, let us all also recognize the importance of our traditions, those who have served our nation and continue to serve by respecting our national anthem and flag — not because someone tells us to, but because it is what binds us together: one nation, under God, indivisible.


Jeff Landry is the governor of Louisiana.

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