by Max Brantley
The University of Arkansas basketball team got exposure to a new ritual during its visit to Connecticut over the weekend. It got to join in the Pledge of Allegiance exercise that now precedes every Connecticut athletic contest — not necessarily to the liking of all fans. It began as a 10-year observance of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The pledge was first recited before UConn’s home football game against Iowa State on Sept. 16. Public response was so positive, Pendergast said, that it was continued at football games and basketball games, and will probably be included at other sports events.
No players are being forced to say the pledge or even to place their hands over their hearts, Pendergast said. Anyone who is uncomfortable with saying “under God” does not have to utter the phrase, which was added to the pledge in 1954, he said.
On Saturday, some Arkansas players put their hands over the hearts, while UConn’s players put their arms around one another’s shoulders.
“We have not instructed our athletes that you must do this,” Pendergast said of reciting the pledge, speaking from Cincinnati, where UConn’s football team played Saturday.
It is not an enforced exercise, so it's probably constitutional, even with the pledge to God, though the coercive pressure on those who might choose not to participate — as in classroom exercises — is clear enough.
There are better ways to demonstrate patriotism than with mass exercises, rote recitations and — to mention something on my mind after watching the infuriating "The Tillman Story" — silence in the face of dishonest military and civilian leadership. Watch that documentary. What a family.