If you like going to basketball games or watching them on TV, you’re used to hearing the national anthem.
But if you’re a fan of the New Orleans Hornets, are you aware of what happens before the anthem is sung?
According to Joe Gerrity at Hornets247 (an unofficial fan site):
Before each and every Hornets game for as long as the team has been in existence, a Christian invocation is done at half court before the national anthem, in which everyone is asked to rise. George Shinn, a devout Christian, began having this done long ago in Charlotte and then brought the practice to New Orleans. For the many years, he remained the only NBA owner in the league to do such a thing. Now that he’s gone and the league controls the team, the question should be asked- Why is a league owned team in clear support of one religion over any other?
It’s a great question. Joe updated his post to add that a Rabbi conducts the invocation “once in a blue moon,” but I don’t see the need for any prayer at all at an NBA game. Still, I’m used to hearing about professional sports teams having chaplains and pre-game prayers (if that’s a surprise to you, read Tom Krattenmaker‘s Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers).
I can’t help but think that if the religious prayers spoken before games were Muslim or Hindu that somebody would have said something about it already, but here we are dozens of games into the NBA’s first team ownership and they have yet to address this very unique aspect of the team’s home court experience.
The NBA is a private organization, but this is a very select way to advance religion. My guess is they’re either unaware of the practice (unlikely), want to keep a tradition going (possible), or they are aware of the practice but are too afraid to say anything (my money’s on this one), but why keep it going when it might alienate many of the fans?
Even if Christian fans balked at the thought of the prayers being stopped, it shouldn’t matter. The NBA could just say it’s adopting standard practices or that it’s not a league defined by any particular faith and getting rid of the practice would allow the team to cater to all of its fans instead of a select group of them.
It seems like an easy fix. Why would the NBA keep this practice going?
Hey, NBA Commissioner David Stern, what are you going to do about this?