Tulsa Athletic soccer team ditches the National Anthem before matches to play 'This Land Is Your Land' instead

Members of Tulsa Athletic announce they will play "This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie as a song of patriotism at all home matches.

(CNN)A semi-professional soccer team based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is ditching the "The Star-Spangled-Banner" that's typically played before games for a song deemed a bit more inclusive.

Tulsa Athletic, which is a part of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), announced on Thursday that the team would instead play Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" at all of its home matches.
A press release issued on the Tulsa Athletic website said the club made the decision in the interest of inclusion and that the National Anthem is at odds with the organization's core values.
"Tulsa Athletic's mission is to create an inclusive community through the game of soccer," the team said. "After carefully reviewing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' lyrics and meaning, including the third verse which mentions 'No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave...,' Tulsa Athletic came to the decision that the song does not align with the club's core values."
    The players of Tulsa Athletic pose for a team photo
    While admitting the verse is rarely sung, the team said it didn't believe the song "represents or unites their diverse players, fans and community."
    In making the switch to Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land", Sonny Dalesandro, co-owner of Tulsa Athletic said that the folk song "not only captures a powerful patriotic sentiment, but that it does so in a far more inclusive way. The song speaks to this country being built and shared by every person of every race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. It represents a future Tulsa Athletic is committed to striving for."
    Fans and players are invited to sing along, the team said, adding that "all forms of patriotic expression are welcomed and respected at Tulsa Athletic's matches."
    Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma, in 1912, where he lived until an oil boom left "the town and its inhabitants 'busted, disgusted, and not to be trusted," according to Woody Guthrie Publications. The experience helped form the singer's "uniquely wry outlook on life," the website says.

    The Anthem and sports

    This change comes after weeks of protests and drives for social change in the US and around the world following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of White police officers while in custody. Its decision to move on from the National Anthem places it squarely within the debate over the role of the song in the world of professional sports.
    Last week, former US national men's soccer team coach Bruce Arena questioned whether the anthem should be played at any professional sporting events in the US, telling ESPN's Taylor Twellman, "I think it puts people in awkward positions."
    "We don't use the national anthem in movie theaters and on Broadway, other events in the United States and I don't think it's appropriate to have a national anthem before a baseball game, an MLS game," Arena said.
      Earlier this month, the US Soccer Federation repealed its policy requiring players to stand during the song, which was put in place after US Women's National Team midfielder Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick's protests.
      For Tulsa Athletic, the new tradition will be kicked-off at the league's Equality Cup, when Tulsa Athletic will play Minneapolis City at Veterans Park in Tulsa. There was no given date for that match.