Comedian Jon Stewart recently revealed that he finds the “whole regimen” of playing the American national anthem before sporting events to be “such a weird ritual.”
During the latest episode of his eponymously named podcast, The Problem With Jon Stewart, the comedian was joined for a short time by billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban.
After Cuban left, Stewart’s co-host, Rob Christensen, said he wished he had gotten a chance to ask the Dallas Mavericks owner for insight into his since- decision to stop playing the national anthem ahead of his team’s home games.
At this moment Stewart declared that not only was he unaware that Cuban had made this decision, but that he was unsure of when and why the practice even started, declaring that said practice is “such a weird ritual.”
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Continuing on the topic, Stewart opined, “You know, I’ve always thought about when [Colin] Kaepernick took the knee and the whole thing was like ‘You got to stand for the anthem.’ Now I imagine, like, in living rooms guys are getting nachos ready and the f—ing wings, and then the anthem comes on and they all just have to [stand up].”
“Like, why is that then when the anthem comes on you only have to stand if you’re there, but the transitive principle through the television…if it’s through the television you could do whatever the f—k you want. You could take a s—t during the national anthem as a patriot,” he concluded. “But, if you’re at the stadium you must…there’s like a whole regimen that you have go through.”
The Dallas Mavericks stopped playing The Star-Spangled Banner before their home games in February of 2021 at the request of Cuban himself. However, the entrepreneur reversed his decision soon after.
“We are always talking to our community,” Cuban explained to now-former ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols of his reversal in an interview given later same month. “I mean, that’s something [Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall] stands for and is very insistent upon, and has become a core part of who we are at the Dallas Mavericks. And in listening to the community, there were quite a few people that voiced their concerns, really their fears that the national anthem did not fully represent them, that their voices were not being heard.”
“So we’ve had a lot of conversations about whether or not we should play the anthem, and during the first pre-season game we decided to not play it and just see what the response was, knowing that we were going to have ongoing conversations about it,” Cuban further disclosed, clarifying,”We didn’t make any decision to never play the national anthem; that wasn’t the case at all.”
Cuban’s decision to start playing The Star-Spangled Banner again came at the same time the NBA issued an official statement addressing the situation in which they stated, “With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy.”
Former NFL Player for the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick, who Stewart also referenced, is credited with starting the trend to kneel before the national anthem at sports events when, in August of 2016, he unceremoniously refused to stand for The Star-Spangled Banner.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
As for Stewart’s original question, though the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner before sports events can be traced back to the late 1800s, its was cemented as standard practice during the Major League Baseball’s 1918 World Series between the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.
Played during the game’s seventh-inning stretch as a symbol of support amidst the country’s then-relatively recent involvement in World War I, the unbridled feelings of American patriotism inspired Francis Scott Key’s famous led to its performance becoming a national sports tradition.
Stewart made headlines earlier this month after a clip from a December 2021 episode of his podcast, in which he accused British author J.K. Rowling of promoting anti-Semitism in the Harry Potter series, began making the rounds online.
In the clip, the comedian tells his co-hosts that the goblins that ran Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter were based on racist caricatures of Jews from the anti-Semitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, stating, “Let me show you this. It’s from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I just want to show a caricature, and they’re like, ‘Oh, look at that. That’s from Harry Potter, and you’re like ‘No. That’s a caricature of a Jew from an anti-Semitic piece of literature.’”
He went on, “J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ And you’re like, ‘This is…it’s a wizarding world. It’s a world where it’s like. The train station has a half thing and no one can see it. And we can ride dragons and you’ve got a pet owl. Who should run the bank? Jews.”
As soon as the comedian saw that the aforementioned clip from his eponymously named podcast was trending on social media, Jon Stewart went into full damage control mode and claimed that his comments on J.K. Rowling being anti-Semitic were nothing but a “light-hearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums.”
“So let me just say this. Super clearly, as clearly as I can. Hello, my name is Jon Stewart. I do not think J.K. Rowling is anti-Semitic. I did not accuse her of being anti-Semitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are anti-Semitic,” Stewart explained.
He elaborated, “I really love the Harry Potter movies. Probably too much for a gentleman of my considerable age. So, I would just like to say that none of that is true, and not a reasonable person could not have looked at that conversation and not found it light-hearted.”
What do you make of Stewart’s take on the national anthem’s performance before American sporting events? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below or on social media.