TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Still in the beginning of the 2022 Florida legislative session, a state senator from Sarasota put patriotism at sporting events as a legislative priority.
Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, head of the state’s Republican Party, introduced a bill that would require the national anthem be played at sporting events.
“This bill requires that the national anthem be played before games at professional sporting events at taxpayer funded venues, in writing,” said Gruters. “A failure to meet this contractual obligation constitutes a fault of the agreement, and may subject the team to a prohibition on future contracts, and fines paid to the state. Failure to comply would allow the attorney general to intervene and enforce the provision.”
When Gruters introduced Senate Bill 1298 at the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, his Senate colleagues made it clear they thought the bill would solve a problem that didn’t currently exist in Florida.
As the question and discussion session for the proposed bill started, the first and only question was asked by Fla. Sen. Vic Torres (D-Kissimmee), preceded by his laughter.
“Who doesn’t play the national anthem now?” Torres asked, referring to major sporting events.
Gruters was quick to respond.
“I don’t know that there are any known instances in Florida, this is just to make sure as a proactive approach that people continue to play it,” Gruters said.
No members of the senate committee debated the legislation. Upon vote, SB 1298 was reported “favorably” in committee, putting it forward to the next stage of the legislative process. The next stop for the bill is the Senate Community Affairs Committee, with a final stop in the Rules Committee.
If passed, SB 1298: Agreements with Professional Sports Teams, would create monetary fines and contractual obligations for patriotic display by requiring professional teams from the National Hockey League, National Football League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and other sports organizations to play the Star-Spangled Banner before games where audience capacity is 75,000 or more.
Should the teams not play the anthem, something no team currently fails to do at sporting events, the organization would be subject to a ban on doing business with state agencies or municipal governments, and monetary penalties enforceable by the Florida Attorney General’s office.
The monetary penalties remain undefined in the current iteration of the proposed bill, but the language stipulates that contracts with the state would have the requirement to play the national anthem included in writing. Failure to play the anthem “constitutes a default of the agreement” and could require “the team to repay any money paid to the team by the state or any government entity” as well as make the team “ineligible to receive further money” from the contract.
Additionally, the bill, if passed, would require government entities that have entered into contracts with a team to “strictly enforce” the rules, and stipulates that failure of a government to enforce the new contract requirements “in a timely manner” would require intervention by the state’s AG.