The national anthem has been the single most important song in my life.
Some might call it my “hit single,” the song that has connected me to millions of people.
My father, Gene Hart, was in the military and rose to the Hockey Hall of Fame as the beloved broadcaster “voice” of the Flyers.
I saw fans grieve the loss of my father while I sang. I felt people rooting for me with all their will while I went through chemo, bald, fighting for my life.
After Sept. 11, 2001, I saw the moment when suddenly people were truly listening, moved to tears. I love the anthem as much as anyone possibly could, and it’s my great honor to sing our song.
So there it is, my military, sports, and anthem connection. I’ve had a front-row seat and a backstage pass to all of it.
What you might not know is that I am also the mother of four black children. They are the loves of my life.
All of this makes me think that in the bluster and controversy of “taking a knee,” we are failing to truly hear the message.
Why are people taking a knee? What is it they are trying to say?
If you believe it disrespects the flag, I feel your hurt, I understand.
If you believe it is a gesture to bring attention to drastic inequality, I feel your hurt, I understand.
We are all flawed, and our truth is our truth.
The anthem is a moment of unity — 90 seconds when we get to feel we are truly one. It celebrates not just a great military, but all citizens and those who have made America their home because they aspire to the ideals that it represents.
I was born into one world and must watch the people I love live in another.
From that vantage point, I can assure you that the inequality is real. The injustice and bias are real. The aggression is very real. Money does not change that, fame does not change that, and being a pro athlete does not change that.
Would you trade your white skin or your child’s for money? Would you change your skin color to play pro sports for a couple of years?
If you are offended at the kneeling, say so, and then ask yourself: How do I make this better so a grown man doesn’t have to kneel down in front of all of America just to be heard? Protest and patriotism are what this country was founded on. Despite our hopes, we are not all treated as equals. Until we face that truth, nobody’s “team” wins.
Sport is the great unifier. You’re free to pick a side, boo your opponent, and call the players bums, all in the name of good fun. At the end of the game, though, the opponents shake hands. Whether hurting from the loss or basking in the glow of a great win, they honor and celebrate each other in the name of sport.
This anthem controversy will end, as others have — there was the Roseanne fiasco, or times when people have forgotten the lyrics or made up their own. What won’t disappear is the fact that we have a huge number of Americans who have been hurting for a long time, and we still have not gotten it right. This is a protest of right and wrong, not a protest of America.
We are still the beacon of hope for ourselves and the rest of the world. So I will keep on singing our song and holding close that moment when we are all one, even if it’s just for a minute and a half.
My dad always said sports was a great metaphor for life, and I used to think that was too simple an expression. But now that I have a family of my own, I get it.
O say can’t you see, something is very wrong in our country. We can and must do better.
Lauren Hart sings the national anthem before every Flyers home game, and has sung it for all pro sports teams in the city, as well as for NASCAR, Formula One, a presidential inauguration, and many others.