Bruce Arena, the current coach of the New England Revolution and the former U.S. men’s national soccer team coach, said Thursday playing the national anthem before professional sporting events should be nixed altogether.
Any fan who has been to a pro sporting event, or even some high school sports events, know that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a staple. But Arena told ESPN he had a hard time trying to understand the relevance of playing the national anthem before games nowadays.
“I think it puts people in awkward positions,” Arena said. “We don’t use national anthem in movie theaters or on Broadway, or for other events in the United States. I don’t think it is appropriate to have a national anthem before a baseball game or an MLS game. But having said that I want it understood that I am very patriotic, but I think it is inappropriate.”
Arena also cited the diversity of Major League Soccer as being another reason why playing the national anthem didn’t make sense to him.
“Think about it,” he said. “In Major League Soccer, most of the players that are standing on the field during the national anthem are international players. They are not even Americans. So why are we playing the national anthem? With all due respect, I live in the greatest country in the world but I think it is inappropriate.”
Mark Clague, an expert on the national anthem, told NPR in 2018 that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was first played at a sporting event in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 15, 1862. The song meshed with the dedication of a new baseball field in the New York City borough, he said.
“They hire a band because it’s a big celebration,” he told NPR. “When you have live music in 1862, during the Civil War, you’re going to play patriotic songs. So they play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ sort of coincidentally. It’s not part of a ritual; [it’s] not played to start the game.”
The anthem was played again during the 1918 World Series and because of the crowd’s reaction, the song stuck through all the four majors sports.
Arena coached the U.S. men’s team two separate times. The first time was from 1998 to 2006 and the other time was from 2016 to 2017.
The Revolution is his third coaching stint in the MLS. He had previously coached D.C. United from 1996 to 1998 and the LA Galaxy from 2008 to 2016.