It's time to stop chanting "USA!" at sporting events

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
The Cauldron

One of the greatest things about being an American is the ability to chant "USA!," or almost anything not overtly repugnant, at a sporting event or elsewhere -- largely without any fear of grave repercussions.

First Amendment scholars trolling the Internet are always quick to point out that the United States Constitution does not typically apply to private entities -- thereby calling into question one's free speech at a sporting event. But a fundamental quality of being a US citizen is the presumption, regardless of legal backing, that one can publicly declare how one feels sans fear of significant repercussions, like, say, public execution. You might get shamed or humiliated on Twitter. You might get fired. You probably won't be executed.

Free speech, both in the less understood legal context, and the oft-embraced symbolic sense, is great. But just because one has the ability to say something does not mean that one should say it. Case in point: America chants at non-Olympic and non-international sporting events.

I love sports for the same reason that I love music, French Impressionism, and opera: sports are an art form that transcends human constructs like language, religion, and culture. Whether you hail from Alabama or Azerbaijan, you will likely appreciate Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Claude Monet's Water Lilies, or Russell Westbrook violently dunking a basketball.

And therein lies my problem. Why, exactly, must we collectively make some sort of figurative allusion to patriotism or sovereign warfare to appreciate a person tossing a ball through a hoop.

The history of sport predates the history of the Olympiad. While international competition is a legitimate and fun part of athletics, it is hardly an inherent and absolute part of athletics. Assuredly, there is nothing wrong with a celebration of ethnocentric glee every two years during the Summer and Winter Olympics, respectively -- so long as patriotism does not devolve into a dangerous brand of jingoism.

Moreover, a Team USA fan chanting "USA" during a FIBA game or World Cup match is perfectly reasonable. But is it really necessary to inorganically attach nationalism to a second round ATP tennis match between John Isner and Novak Djokovic, or a regular season basketball game between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center?

Really, "USA!" chants are little more than a relic of Cold War bipolarity -- the international political reality in which effectively every country not named Finland, Austria, Sweden, or Switzerland was either "good" or "evil." Back then, Americans and Soviets were easily able to look at a map and know whether a particular country was their ally or their "enemy." Even professional wrestling went as far as to monetize bipolarity, with prominent '80s storylines portraying a patriotic Hulk Hogan defeating the villainous Russian Nikolai Volkoff -- and adding insult to injury by literally spitting on the flag of the Soviet Union.

While this may come as a surprise to some, the Cold War is over. The Berlin Wall, that proverbial Iron Curtain separating Western Europe from the Eastern Bloc, came down in 1989, and its fall ushered in a modern era of unipolarity -- with very few countries actively opposing the United States. In 2015, Russia is an (admittedly ornery) ally; Vladimir Putin, despite a slew of troubling recent transgressions, retains his seat at the grownup table; and the modern enemies of the US are not really nations, per se, but instead fringe sects within existing sovereign states.

The historical takeaway? Yelling patriotic chants at allies of the United States is at best sophomoric, and at worst just plain stupid. Or, in the case of the Lone Star State, bigotry.

An unfortunate trend from the annals of Texas high school athletics reveals that "USA" chants have cheapened from fairly-innocent showings of American pride into over-demonstrations of racism. In 2011, fans of predominantly white Cedar Park High School's boys basketball team chanted "USA! USA!" and "Arizona! Arizona!" during a contest against San Antonio Lanier High's largely Hispanic roster. The "Arizona!" chants were a reference to Arizona Senate Bill 1070 -- which in its original form on paper would have allowed for police to have reasonable suspicion to stop people solely for having brown skin, regardless of how many officers would have attempted to utilize such a sole grounds for questioning.

And those aforementioned chants from 2011 were hardly an isolated incident.

In 2012, students at Alamo Heights High School chanted "USA! USA!" toward the mostly Hispanic roster of Edison High School. And only weeks ago in 2015, members of the Idalou High School student section chanted "USA! USA!" during a girls basketball game against "Slaton High School."

Regardless of one's political leanings or views about political correctness, white American teenagers directing "USA!" chants at Hispanic American teenagers is an example of disgusting racism, with the subtext being that skin color is somehow correlative with citizenship. And it would be folly to even try to dispute the inherent racism associated with chanting a reference to SB 1070 toward a group of Hispanic American student athletes.

It would be unfair to suggest that the argument to abandon "USA!" chants is is exclusively rooted in mitigating racism. Not everyone chanting "USA!" is a racist or even behaving in racist fashion. The chants intended as ethnocentric -- probably okay, but certainly not very open-minded -- are different than those that are jingoistic. The latter are even less okay, and, regardless of how objectionable, almost always lack in tact.

Rather, "USA!" chants should be curbed at their core due to superfluousness. The United States is awesome. You know it; I know it; most citizens of other nations know it. As a result, there is simply no need to convey pro-America chants at unsuspecting foreign competitors or American minorities during sporting events. To loosely quote Zoidberg from Futurama, such chants are bad and you should feel bad for doing them.

At the end of the day, and at the risk of dumbing down complex Constitutional citizenship law, being an American is the result of either being born in the United States; being born to US citizens abroad with American residency; or navigating a complex bureaucracy of US immigration and citizenship rules and regulations.

Chanting "USA!" at an opponent is the equivalent of shouting, "Ha ha, I am the product of an American semen swimming into an American unfertilized egg, and you are not!" There are simply better things to chant about than the intersection of biology and borders.

Now, chanting "Murica!" ... that's an altogether different situation.

More on AOL
Sports PotW for 3/2
See Gallery
It's time to stop chanting "USA!" at sporting events
Chicago White Sox players warm up before a spring training baseball workout Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/John Locher)
OSAKA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 28: General view of action during day two of the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships at Osaka Pool on February 28, 2015 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Tom Dulat - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 1: Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a shootout save on T.J. Oshie #74 of the St. Louis Blues during their NHL game at Rogers Arena March 1, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 6-5 in a shootout. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards' Marcin Gortat, center, of Poland, and Drew Gooden, left, battle for a rebound against Philadelphia 76ers' JaVale McGee during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 89-81. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (Top) Ronda Rousey grapples with Cat Zingano in their UFC women's bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 184 event at Staples Center on February 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook walks down court with only seconds to go during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Westbrook scored 40 points but missed an opportunity to tie the game, making only two of three free throws with just seconds left. Portland won 115-112. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Romelu Lukaku of Everton jumps a tackle from Francis Coquelin of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on March 1, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - MARCH 01: Yiwei Zhang of China competes during the FIS Snowboard World Cup 2015 Men's Snowboard Halfpipe Final during the U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain on March 1, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 24: Kris Versteeg #23 of the Chicago Blackhawks collides into goalie Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers as Aleksander Barkov #16 skates in from the side during the NHL game at the United Center on February 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Arizona State forward Eric Jacobsen, left, fouls Utah guard Kenneth Ogbe during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Utah won 83-41. (AP photo/Rick Bowmer)
FALUN, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 28: (FRANCE OUT) Jason Lamy Chappuis of France takes 1st place during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Men's Nordic Combined Team Sprint on February 28, 2015 in Falun, Sweden. (Photo by Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 23: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks falls to the ice during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on February 23, 2015 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 28: Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Borussia Dortmund scores his teams second goal next to Atsuto Uchida of Schalke 04 during hte Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 at Signal Iduna Park on February 28, 2015 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics' Brandon Bass goes to the basket past Golden State Warriors' Andrew Bogut, left, and Klay Thompson (11) during the second half of the Golden State Warriors 106-101 win over the Boston Celtics in an NBA basketball game in Boston, Sunday, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Maryland's Dez Wells hugs guard Melo Trimble (2) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in College Park, Md. Trimble and Wells contributed a combined 42 points to Maryland's 59-53 upset win. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu (9), of Finland, and Nashville Predators center Craig Smith (15) battle for the puck in the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. The Wild won 4-2. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
ACAPULCO, MEXICO - FEBRUARY 23: Risa Ozaki of Japan serves during a female single match between Risa Ozaki and Louisa Chirico of USA as part of Telcel Mexican Open 2015 at Mextenis Stadium on February 23, 2015 in Acapulco, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 01: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers is fouled by Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia returns the ball to Maria Sharapova of Russia during a Mexican Tennis Open during a quarterfinal match in Acapulco, Mexico, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)
Dimitri Isler of Switzerland crashes on landing during the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup 2015 event in Raubichi, on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus, Sunday, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen, left, fights for the ball with Fiorentina's Micah Richards during a Uefa Europa League, round of 32 second leg soccer match between Fiorentina and Tottenham at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)
Milwaukee Bucks guard Jared Dudley stares at the ball as two players reach for it during the second half of the Bucks' NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 28: Joe Tomane of the Brumbies breaks through a tackle during the round three Super Rugby match between the Rebels and the Brumbies at AAMI Park on February 28, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 25: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers dives for the basketball in front of teammate Chris Paul #3 during their game against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center on February 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 26: Tony Jantschke of Borussia Moenchengladbach and Vitolo of Sevilla battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and FC Sevilla at Borussia-Park on February 26, 2015 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (21) argues with referee Bennett Salvatore after Garnett was charged with a second technical foul and ejected during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Minneapolis, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. The Grizzlies won 101-97. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool celebrates with his team mates after his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on March 1, 2015 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Xavier guard Dee Davis, left, is fouled by Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Kohl)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Manager Jose Mourinho of Chelsea lies on the pitch as Chelsea celebrate with the trophy during the Capital One Cup Final match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on March 1, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Related links:
Race to the NBA's bottom!
Third wave feminism's new frontier: Mixed martial arts?
Anthony Mason's father figure mourns his loss

For more sports coverage, please visit The
Read Full Story

People are Reading