After President Trump’s characterization of those who kneel during the national anthem as a “son of a b*tch,” during a rally campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama, the topic of kneeling as a form of peaceful protest hit the center stage once again.
During President Trump’s speech, he urged NFL owners to fire the peacefully protesting players.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Disregarding President Trump’s disrespectful characterization of protesters, let’s get into what, according to the U.S. Flag Code, is disrespectful to the American flag.
The U.S. Flag Code was implemented on June 14, 1923 as a guideline for proper handling of the American flag.
The U.S Flag Code serves as a set of guidelines, but are not enforceable as law. To-date, there is no code that states that kneeling is disrespectful.
The guidelines are as follows for non-military personnel:
“[…] all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart…” Title 36, Subtitle I, Part A section 301 United States Code.
Every year, when the Fourth of July rolls around, there seems to be a sale on all things flag related.
There are sales on flag styled shirts, hats, disposable plates, and even toothpicks with little flags on the end. According to the U.S. Flag Code Section 8 (d):
“(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.”
This means that those flag patterned swim trunks you break out for the family BBQ every Fourth of July is disrespectful to the flag.
Where is the outrage against major retailers that sell these items? Why is no one firing those who wear the flag as an accessory? Why is there no outcry detailing the disrespect that wearing the flag as an accessory causes to those who serve, or have served?
You know who else wears the flag as an accessory? Most baseball teams. According to U.S. Flag Code Section 8 (j):
“(j) 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 […] The lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.”
Baseball, America’s favorite pastime, regularly breaks this guideline as it has become a tradition since World War I for sports teams to donn the American Flag on their uniform.
Again, there is no outcry against baseball teams regarding their flag usage, no president calling flag-wearers derogatory terms, no heated debates on major news channels regarding the propriety, or lack thereof.
But, I think I know why there is a visceral reaction against those who kneel during the anthem and none for those who wear the flag as an accessory.
By kneeling, some viewers have to face the uncomfortable reality that racial inequality still exists within our country.
That “land of the free” has an asterisk if you are a black American. That incarceration rates are disproportionately high among young black male high school dropouts, according to a study conducted by Western, Bruce & Becky Pettit (2010): Incarceration and Social Inequality. That, according to the Washington Post, “black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.”
The topic of kneeling during the anthem as a form of peaceful protesting gaining prominence once again has nothing to do with the current office holder. Athletes have been kneeling since former President Obama was in office.
Kneeling has to do with the racial inequality that minorities, specifically black Americans, face that are not being properly addressed.
Freedom of speech-the right to kneel-should not be a right taken away.