Bill in Florida Senate would require pro sports teams to play national anthem or face fine

Democrat from West Palm Beach lone dissenting vote as bill passes committee
Tampa Bay Buccaneers players stand during national anthem in August 2021
Posted at 11:55 AM, Jan 20, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would require professional sports teams to play the national anthem before the start of every sporting event or risk being fined.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, wants to make sure that every pro team playing in a government-owned-or-subsidized venue is also playing the "Star-Spangled Banner" beforehand.

Under SB 1298, the state's two Major League Baseball teams (Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays), two NBA teams (Miami Heat and Orlando Magic), three NFL teams (Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and two NHL teams (Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning) would be required to play the national anthem.

Miami Dolphins cheerleaders during national anthem in November 2021
Miami Dolphins cheerleaders stand during the national anthem before the start of a game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Any team that doesn't comply would be subject to penalties, including the intervention of the attorney general "to enforce the provision."

The requirement would also be extended to Palm Beach County's two spring training homes (Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach and Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter), NASCAR and golf.

Most, if not all, of Florida's college and pro sports teams already play the national anthem, but making it a law would prevent team owners from arbitrarily doing away with it.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headlines last season after his team briefly stopped playing the national anthem at home games before the NBA required all teams to do so.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stands during national anthem in February 2021
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, right, stands by a camera operator during the national anthem before the team's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Dallas.

The national anthem became a subject of controversy in the NFL in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling — instead of standing, as is customary — during the anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the country. He became a free agent after the season but did not land with another team and has been out of the league ever since.

Other players soon followed, leading to a barrage of criticism from then-President Donald Trump and prompting some longtime season-ticket holders to boycott the NFL, demanding refunds and even burning tickets and jerseys in protest. The NFL in 2018 began fining players who kneel during the national anthem.

Some Los Angeles Rams players kneel during national anthem at Miami Dolphins in 2020
Some Los Angeles Rams players kneel during the singing of the national anthem before a game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

SB 1298 cleared the Committee on Commerce and Tourism by a 7-1 vote Tuesday. Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, was the lone dissenting vote.

The bill is now before the Committee on Community Affairs. If it were to become law, the requirement would take effect July 1.