Texas Star Spangled Banner Protection Act Explained

The so called Texas Star Spangled Banner Bill will take effect September 1st, 2021. At which time Professional sports teams that refuse to play the anthem risk losing state level funding.

Table of Contents

During the previous NBA season Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire entrepreneur stopped playing the national anthem before games. This resulted in a flurry of backlash, calls for boycotts and discussions about the importance of the national anthem before sports games. In the following legislative session, Senate Bill 4 would be proposed that would strip away state funding from any team that refuses to play the national anthem before games.

There’s been a couple of good response pieces to this bill (SB 4) which will become law in the fall after being signed by the Governor. Texas Tribune wrote a fairly good piece on the bill that was clearly targeted at Mark Cuban. Whose Mavericks played 13 home games without them before the legislative session began. Given the high degree of polarization with this bill, and our desire to keep things as objective as possible, we’ll just stick to the movement of the bill through its bill stages.

As far as the commentary on the bill while it was on the house floor, perhaps the richest interchanges occurred while proposed amendments (all of which failed adoption) were being argued for. For that reason, and the fact failed amendments seldom create a lot of attention in the press, we’ll include an additional section about that stage.

Who Wrote The Bill?

The bills official author is Texas Senator Dawn Buckingham of District 24. A Republican who doubles as a specialist in reconstructive surgery, she represents the suburbs of Austin. A fairly new face in the Texas political scene, having won her first campaign in a contentious runoff in 2016, Rep. Buckingham was joined by 8 other co-authors.

Senate Committee and Vote

The bill was assigned to the State Affairs committee (whom we have had cause to mention before). The committee, chaired by Bryan Hughes, had little trouble with the bill. It would pass through committee with a unanimous vote on March 29th, 2021.

From there it would head to the senate where it again met little objection. The bill passed the senate on April 8th, 2021 with a vote of 28-2. The two Nays came from Senator Sarah Eckhardt of Bastrop and Travis Counties and Senator Nathan Johnson (District 16).

House Committee and Vote

Though the bill sped through the Senate where it was first introduced, the bill would meet an attempt at series of amendments after getting out of the house committee. We’ll break down some of those attempted amendments added to the bill. In short they all failed, but mostly due to the fact that adding an amendment to the bill would’ve caused restarted the process. A process that nearly came to an end before the bill was able to pass.

As is procedure, the bill would move onto the House where it was also assigned to the State Affairs committee. Receiving a record vote of 13 to 0, the bill had no issues getting to the house floor.

House Amendments

However several amendments were attempted by members of the house which, if adopted, would require a restart of the process. Representative Wu argued that the bill was an infringement on free speech and that private individuals who own private corporations should be free to play whatever music they wish.

This amendment says that instead of forcing people to say something, it just says that we will in all contracts encourage people, encourage private entities, to play the national anthem. That’s it. Without this amendment, this bill is per se unconstitutional.

Rep. Wu

Rep. Wu’s amendment failed to gain adoption. Another attempted amendment that failed to gain adoption was Amendment 2 to the bill. This amendment noted the racial undertones of the third stanza of the Star Spangled Banner and suggested that teams should have to play both the Star Spangled Banner AND Lift Every Voice and Sing which, as Representative Crockett notes, “is commonly known as the Black national anthem of the
United States.”

The third stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner”—and I paraphrase—literally says that any slave that runs for freedom as they were fighting against the British, that “The Star-Spangled Banner” wished hate and death upon any slave that ran.

Rep. J.D. Johnson

This amendment failed adoption as well but the vote was a little closer with 61 for and 82 against. A final amendment was proposed that would make it so that the first amendment (where teams would have to play both the Star Spangled Banner and Lift Every Voice) so that they could play either song. This amendment failed as well.

House Vote

Though it cut it close (the house voted on May 25th) the house would pass SB 4 with a vote of 110 votes in favor and just 34 objections. From there it would head to the Governor’s desk.

Governor Action

The Governor signed the bill on June 16th, 2021 thereby guaranteeing the bill would become law. As of September 1st, 2021 any professional sports team in Texas that does not play the national anthem before the game will lose Tax dollars provided to them by the State of Texas. Again though, it is not “illegal” for them to avoid playing the national anthem if they can survive without state provided subsidies.

We’ll update this page with any news and notes (as well as teams that choose to violate the law and forego federal funding) in the fall. As one of the legislators commented, it’s very unlikely they will and they probably didn’t need the bill to make professional teams play the anthem. However time will tell and we will be here along the way.