Tulsa Athletic says it won’t play national anthem at games anymore

The Tulsa Athletic soccer team announced Wednesday that it will replace the national anthem with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” for the remainder of its home matches.

“After carefully reviewing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ lyrics and meaning, including the third verse which mentions ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave…,’ Tulsa Athletic came to the decision that the song does not align with the club’s core values,” the club, which competes in the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League, said in a statement.

“While this verse is rarely sung, Tulsa Athletic does not believe ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ represents or unites their diverse players, fans and community.”

Players and fans are welcome to sing along if they are comfortable and all forms of patriotic expression are respected at Tulsa Athletic matches, the club said.

The decision comes amid widespread racial injustice protests across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer held a knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.

The movement has trickled into the sports world, with Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 kneeling protest during the national anthem coming back into discussion in wake of recent events.

Last week, former US men’s national soccer team coach Bruce Arena said it was “inappropriate” to play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ before sporting events.

“From our beginning, we have developed a culture of inclusion and acceptance at Tulsa Athletic,” Tulsa Athletic’s co-owner Sonny Dalesandro said. “We live in a country that allows us to freely speak our voice. We utilize this right as a club to continually try and improve our team and community.”