All professional sporting events in Florida will be required to play the national anthem at the start of the contest, if a bill working its way through the Legislature is approved.
Senate Bill 1298, proposed by Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, has already been approved by the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Gruters shared his intentions in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com.
“Florida is the freedom state. If you want taxpayer dollars for your stadium, you will have to play the national anthem. It is reasonable and appropriate to think we would continue to play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at tax-funded stadiums,” Gruters said.
SB 1298 would apply to any team that competes in a government-owned facility paid for by taxes.
There are eight professional stadiums that are funded by taxpayer dollars in Florida. That includes sports franchises that participate in the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.
Additionally, professional teams that receive state grants will have to abide by the law, if it approved. There are 10 Major League Baseball teams that hold their spring training in the South Florida region.
The introduction of the bill has revealed similar perspectives from multiple professional athletes who are stationed in Florida.
Simeon Woods-Richardson, an Olympic silver medalist and minor league baseball player in the Minnesota Twins organization, has played the majority of his career in Florida.
“Since I participated in the Olympics this past year, I have a whole different respect for the national anthem. I realized that the song truly represents a great country unlike any other in the world,” he said.
“On the professional level, I never played a game without it being played. When I hear the national anthem being played before the game, it gives me a chance to say my pre-game prayers and mentally prepare,” Woods-Richardson added.
New York Mets minor league baseball player Brendan Hardy has played the majority of his professional career in Port St. Lucie. His parents served a combined 46 years in the United States Air Force.
“I’ve always thought that the anthem had to be played before each game,” he said.
“My parents were both master sergeants in the Air Force. Hearing the national anthem being played before my games makes me think of them and their service for our country.”
SB 1298 would go into effect July 1, if approved by both chambers and signed by the governor.