The NFL and Its Fans Do Not Actually Care About Respecting the American Flag

The NFL and Its Fans Do Not Actually Care About Respecting the American Flag


The NFL and Its Fans Do Not Actually Care About Respecting the American Flag


The NFL and its fans and advertisers are very, very concerned with the National Anthem and the American Flag getting all the respect it deserves. That’s why all NFL entities and fans practice proper flag etiquette at all times.

I’m just kidding.

Fans and the league often completely ignore the actual United States Flag Code and only recently started caring about what people were doing during the National Anthem. Black players kneeling became anti-American while a bunch of other stuff continues to be overlooked.  Let’s start with this:

all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.

So what percentage of people put their hand over their heart during the National Anthem? Fifty? Sure, almost everyone stands during the Anthem, but what about the people waiting in the concourse to buy concessions? People in the bathroom? Or just the fans or players standing quietly with their hands at their sides or behind their backs? How about the people selling the food and drinks? Cameramen? Let me guess, you should only follow this rule if you don’t have a job to do. Like boo players who are kneeling.

Oct 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Giants fans show their displeasure as New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon (not pictured) takes a knee during the national anthem before the start of the game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll ignore the fact that athletes wear uniforms because it’s pretty obvious the code is referring to military uniforms. Right? I’d hate to assume intent, but in this case I’m sure many people do.

No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.

And yet American flag patches appear on official NFL gear all the time. Like this sticker on a Bucs helmet in 2016.

I guess the NFL can get around this because they consider themselves a patriotic organization.

The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

Yet the NFL loves trotting out giant flags and holding them flat. Here’s an example of just that in a stadium outside our nation’s capital from September 2011. Note the racial slurs painted on each end of the field.

30 Sept 01: A large US Flag is unfurled by police and rescue personel involved at the Pentagon on Sept 11th prior to the game between the Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Maryland. The Chiefs defeat the Redskins 45-13. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/Allsport.

Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

There are always people in the stands who don’t remove their hats during the National Anthem. Like in that picture of Vice President Mike Pence. Or this picture of Hank Williams Jr., who once compared President Obama to Hitler, performing the National Anthem while wearing a cowboy’s headdress. Williams currently provides the theme for Monday Night Football on ESPN.

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 27: Hank Williams Jr. sings the National Anthem prior to the game between the Indianapolis Colts against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 27, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Colts 31-21. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

It is unclear if a bear head counts as a headdress. Someone should ask the folks taking pictures with their phones in the background.

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 10: Bears fans stand for the national anthem prior to the start of the game between the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field on September 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images)

The US Flag Code is also unclear about whether or not the American Flag should be used as a parachute, but here is that exact thing in 2010. Back when there was a football team in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO – SEPTEMBER 19: The American flag is brought into the stadium by parachutte during the national anthem before the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 19, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

What else constitutes good Flag worship?

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

GLENDALE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 11: Fans of the Arizona Cardinals holds up an american flag during the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 24: Fans hold an American Flag for the national anthem prior to the start of the game between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on December 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Hopefully no one from the military sees that. Except for this guy who got Will Witherspoon autographing on a flag in 2012.

Of course, none of these examples are anywhere near as bad as quietly kneeling during the National Anthem. Luckily, even if any of those things were as bad as kneeling, the offenders would be safe from punishment anyway. Via a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article from 2015:

Still, the power of the U.S. Flag Code is limited. It survives only as a set of guidelines for treatment of the flag, not as enforceable law. The First Amendment, protecting free speech, prevents direct enforcement of the U.S. Flag Code, said Ken Gormley, dean and professor at the Duquesne University School of Law.

Seriously. Stop pretending this is about respecting the flag.


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