Tulsa semipro soccer team to replace pregame national anthem

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A semipro soccer team based in Tulsa will replace the national anthem with Woody Guthrie's “This Land Is Your Land” at all home matches.

Tulsa Athletic co-owner Sonny Dalesandro said the team went away from “The Star-Spangled Banner” after reviewing the rarely sung third verse of Francis Scott Key’s poem, which includes the line: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” Dalesandro said that does not align with the club’s core values, and when lining up the Declaration of Independence against the line in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he “sided with ‘all men are created equal.’”

The Athletic is part of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), which has more than 90 teams. The team made the announcement in a news release Wednesday.

Dalesandro said Thursday that the fact that Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma, a small town about 65 miles from Tulsa, was a key factor in the new song that was picked.

He also simply thought it made sense.

“The song choice for us was super inclusive in that ’This land is your land, this land is my land,'” Dalesandro said. “'This land was made for you and me.’ That to us was a nod to the immigrants and the veterans that helped build this country.”

Dalesandro said the change had been considered for a while and was reinforced after the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

“It was meant to be something that started a conversation to potentially grow things closer together," he said.

Dalesandro said he has been unfairly branded as unpatriotic. He said his great grandfather fought in World War I. The team has worn camouflage jerseys, and the goalie has worn a jersey with an American flag design. It has even donated the profits from their gate to local VFW Post 577.

“That's probably been the most painful thing,” Dalesandro said. “I see myself as an extremely proud, proud American.”

He spent some time Thursday speaking with members of the military and pledged to continue to support them.

“I’ve hurt people,” he said. “It was never my intention.”

The Athletic said fans can sing along with the Guthrie song if they are comfortable, and all forms of patriotic expression are welcomed. Because of COVID-19, the team is unsure exactly when it will play again.

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