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.

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.

"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.

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

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.

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."

"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."

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.