Bill requiring pro sports teams in Texas to play national anthem heads to governor's desk

Jeff Ehling Image
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants special session over 3 failed bills
Where do some key Texas bills stand as this legislative session comes to an end? ABC13's Jeff Ehling walks us through what to know and how they could affect you.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- With just a week to go before the legislative session ends in Texas, a host of bills are making their way to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

One of the pieces of legislation still under consideration would require sports teams to play the national anthem.

Dubbed the "Star Spangled Banner Protection Act," Senate Bill 4 would apply to professional sports teams that receive government funds from the state of Texas, requiring them to play the song.

The act passed in the House on Tuesday. It now heads to the governor's desk.

According to our partners at The Texas Tribune, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the bill one of his legislative priorities after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stopped playing the anthem before home games.

"Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it. We ARE the land of free & home of the brave," Patrick said at the time.

In a public response to the outcry condemning his decision, Cuban expressed support for the anthem, but he said team executives "also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them." The NBA later said all teams would play the anthem before games.

During Monday's debate on the House floor, opponents questioned the constitutionality of a law that they said ties funding to free speech by threatening negative action against sports teams that choose to express their opinions by declining to play the anthem.

"Once again, we're carrying legislation that is openly and aggressively unconstitutional," said state Rep. Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat who unsuccessfully tried to turn the bill into a resolution, allowing the House to take a stand in favor of the anthem without the force of law.

The bill's House sponsor, state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, said the bill does not violate free speech because teams can still choose not to play the anthem and forgo the funding and business relationship with the state.

Another bill, the Firearm Carry Act of 2021, has garnered national attention because it would allow residents in Texas age 21 and older to carry a firearm without a license.

It prohibits violent family offenders and convicted felons from carrying weapons. Abbott has said he will sign it into law.

Gordon Taylor at Black Gold Guns and Ammo says if you are going to open carry, educate yourself. But he supports the legislation.

"I think the criminals are going to think twice about who they are jacking up at the time because they never know if you are going to have a gun, or you are going to step in and be the Good Samaritan and take care of the people," Taylor said.

Houston mother Liz Hanks fought against the bill and worries it will cause an increase in gun violence.

"The trend is up, every year, year over year, more gun violence in Texas. So here we are at this pinnacle of many, many, many, mass shootings in Texas and many gun deaths in Texas and now we are going to loosen our gun laws even more," Hanks said.

SEE ALSO: Texas' permitless carry could be crime deterrent, proponents argue

With the so-called "consitutional carry" bill poised to become law in Texas, proponents are cheering it as a crime deterrent. But, there are fears that it could enable the opposite.

One bill that seems unlikely to become law this session is Senate Bill 29. It would have mandated transgender students in Texas play sports on teams based on the sex assigned to them at birth.

The Senate failed to beat the deadline required to send the measure to the house, however it is not technically dead until Monday of next week.

According to the ACLU, Texas is one of at least 20 states that have considered bills limiting access to transgender health care in 2021.

One of at least 31 states with bills that would limit the school sports teams they can join. But according to Equality Texas, there have been more anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in Texas this legislative session than any other state.

READ: TX GOP's bills targeting transgender kids have exacted mental health toll, even if not law

Our ABC13 partners at the Texas Tribune contributed to this report. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans - and engages with them - about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.