Louisiana governor Jeff Landry proposing mandated standing for the U.S. national anthem. Louisiana governor Jeff Landry proposing mandated standing for the U.S. national anthem. (Awful Announcing on Twitter/X.)

Back in 2016 in particular, there was huge discussion of the U.S. national anthem and sports. That year saw then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the anthem when it was played before NFL games in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. It then saw subsequent decisions to follow suit from other players (including teammate Eric Reid), and it led to massive national controversy, especially after attacks from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

But the anthem protest discussion had largely died down since then, particularly in the last few years. There have still been discussions about Kaepernick and Reid, especially around their lawsuits against the NFL (both eventually settled) and around the lack of further real NFL opportunities Kaepernick received. But talk of current anthem protests wasn’t really a thing until this week. And part of that was about decisions by a wide variety of teams across sports to conduct preparation in locker rooms during the time when the anthem is played, eliminating any potential visuals of kneeling players.

That’s part of what made this week’s anthem discourse so odd. There, after the LSU Tigers-Iowa Hawkeyes Elite Eight NCAA Women’s Tournament game Monday (which wound up drawing a historic audience and also breaking sportsbook records), new Louisiana governor Jeff Landry (Republican, elected in October, replacing term-limited Democratic governor John Bel Edwards) decided to weigh in on the Tigers being in the locker room for the anthem (their usual approach over the past several years, as head coach Kim Mulkey discussed afterwards, and an approach Iowa also took ahead of last year’s national championship game against LSU). And he did so in some high-profile ways.

On Tuesday, Landry tweeted that the Louisiana Board of Regents (overseeing colleges and other post-secondary institutions in the state) should mandate student-athletes be present for the anthem or risk losing their scholarships. On Wednesday, Landry went on Fox News and went even further. There, near the end of an interview with America Reports host Sandra Smith, Landry answered a question from Smith about if this would require those athletes to stand as well. He emphasized that any policy here would come from the board of regents rather than the governor’s office, but said that “should” lead to a mandate for athletes to stand for the anthem:

The “If you don’t like it, well, you don’t have to play the sport” line here in particular drew a lot of criticism for Landry. Here’s some of that:

We’ll see what, if anything, actually comes of all this. Landry has made it clear so far that his plan for intervention here is to appeal to the Louisiana Board of Regents to implement anthem policies; if they decline to do so, this may not get far. And this all may wind up being a tempest in a teapot if that’s the end result. But it is certainly amazing to see a sitting governor try and reignite the sports anthem debate in 2024, and to do so by criticizing one of the most popular schools and teams in his state.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter/X]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.