Dubbed the “Star Spangled Banner Protection Act,” the bill was approved unanimously by the House Committee on State Affairs on Tuesday ahead of the looming deadline for the lower chamber to pass legislation from the Senate.
All Senate bills must be approved by the House before the end of Tuesday, May 25, in order to move to the governor’s desk.
SB 4 is being carried in the House by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), the chairman of the powerful Calendars Committee that will decide when a bill is brought to the floor after it’s approved by a committee.
Laying out the bill before the members of the state affairs committee on Tuesday, Burrows said the Star Spangled Banner Protection Act is “intended to promote unity and instill pride in our great country.”
“Sports and sporting venues have historically played a role in uniting Texans from all walks of life, yet the recent decision to use the national anthem as a dividing force has been disappointing and to the dismay of millions of Texans,” said Burrows.
“Questions have been raised as to why professional sports teams are able to deliberately not play the national anthem and cause division much to the offense of both those in attendance and tuning in, all while receiving financial incentives from governmental entities and amassing immense wealth themselves in the process.”
The legislation was filed and prioritized immediately in the aftermath of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ending the practice of playing the anthem at the beginning of the North Texas basketball team’s games.
Despite the policy of Cuban — who has also defended the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) business with China amidst the communist nation’s human rights violations — the NBA quickly released a statement that it would require the performance of the national anthem before all of its league’s games.
Though the NBA reversed the course of the Mavericks, the lieutenant governor remained firm in pushing for the national anthem to be a stipulation for receiving any taxpayer dollars.
And although Patrick has faced some flak for prioritizing SB 4 over other issues, it has hardly been in the limelight this legislative session.
While other legislation — such as the GOP election integrity bills — was met with hundreds of Texans wanting to weigh in on the policy through public testimony, SB 4 has received much less fanfare.
During the Senate hearing, only three people testified against the bill and only four in favor of it — notably including one witness who broke out into singing the anthem and was joined by others at the hearing.
In the vote before the upper chamber, the policy was widely accepted with all but three senators — Sens. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) and Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) who opposed it, and Sen. Jose Menéndez (D-San Antonio) who was absent — supporting its passage.
SB 4 was approved by the Senate in early April and then referred to the House State Affairs Committee where it has been sitting ever since.
At the House hearing on Tuesday, only one person showed up to testify, Mitch Fuller, the director of public and government affairs for the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
“The national anthem should be played at every game and it’s gonna be hard to find a professional sports team in this state that does not have any public money in it,” said Fuller. “This is a very simple bill, no infringement on personal freedom, and the national anthem is a civic institution of our country and has been for a hundred years.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.