I am a little late on the Colin Kaepernick brouhaha, but then it is perhaps not too late to bring a little history to questions like this. The question, of course, is standing for the National Anthem before sporting events – or, rather, the playing of the National Anthem before sporting events. The National Anthem is always played before sporting events. Baseball games. Football games. Just about everything.1 So it is a big deal when some player won’t stand or pay attention during the Anthem.2
But the point is the Anthem hasn’t always been played before baseball games. I remember the Chicago Cubs didn’t play the Anthem before games in late 1950s and early 1960s. (I can’t speak to before the late 1950s; I wasn’t there – or at least I don’t remember.) They would play it for holidays, like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, but not for regular games. It was only when our involvement in Vietnam started to increase in the mid-1960s that Philip Wrigley began having the National Anthem played before all games. Obviously, it is standard now (and Wayne Messmer always does a fantastic job when he sings for the Cubs), but it is perhaps useful to remember that it wasn’t always so.
1 It’s not played before high school or college tennis matches; at least not at the ones I have been to.
2 I am always impressed by the respect that foreign baseball players show while the National Anthem is played. I mean, if you are from the Dominican Republic, etc., it’s not your anthem. But they always stand there respectfully.