Some Democrats question motive behind national anthem bill

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Shortly after a Republican senator introduced a bill to make it illegal for sports arenas to skip the national anthem, some Democrats questioned the motive behind the proposal.

Most Wisconsin sports teams -- the Bucks, Packers and Brewers -- already play the Star Spangled Banner at home games, which is why Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) is curious why the legislation is needed.

“It’s very clear those authoring this legislation might be trying to insinuate the activism that’s shown around the Star Spangled Banner and other anthems,” said Bowen. “(Maybe) they're trying to be a little critical of those folks who have used (the song) as a platform to challenge our country, challenging our state to live up to the things that we say.”

Rep. Bowen said he has yet to take a stance on the bill but hopes to talk to the bill sponsor, Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), about the proposal in the coming weeks.

The legislation wouldn’t penalize sports arenas if they don’t play the song. It also wouldn’t require athletes or fans to participate. The national anthem became the center of a controversy in 2016 when former NFL San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Collin Kapernick, knelt during the song in protest against racial injustice.

Most recently, the Milwaukee Bucks also took a stance against racial inequalities after a Kenosha police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, several times in the back. The team took a knee in protest during the beginning of their season in January after the officer involved wasn’t charged.

"The bill is aimed at avoiding controversy," said Sen. Testin, who defended his proposal. He said he introduced legislation in light of an NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks, who didn’t play the Star Spangled Banner for weeks during the start of their season, which did not include any fans.

“We realize while we have political differences and politics are super polarized right now, that we have one common denominator, we are all Americans,” said Testin. “I would hope this would be a bipartisan bill and Governor Evers would sign it.”

Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) also criticized the proposal in a tweet, calling out the senator who serves on the health committee.

“My colleagues are absolutely right, we should be focused on COVID-19 relief, we should be focused on our families that are suffering right now,” said Bowen.

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