Vin Scully, can I have your season tickets?

Published 11:44 am Monday, November 13, 2017

Let’s see if I remember this right: it all started with one NFL player kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality.

A year later and roughly 200 pro players knelt in September, some locked arm-in-arm with ownership and management.

Let’s hear it for Ol’ Glory. The American flag has been a fixture in the news lately, and disrespect for the flag has especially been a heated topic.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem disrespectful to the flag and the USA, or is it just individual Americans practicing their Constitutionally-enabled right to Freedom of Speech?

I went to the website, to review the Flag Code. It was something touched on during my high school days in Jr. ROTC, but I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to it until now.

The Flag Code became law in 1942 during World War II. It does not impose penalties for misuse of the flag as each state has its own set of laws regarding flag law penalties.

In North Carolina Article 52 of the NC General Statutes states, any “public acts of physical contact including, but not limited to, mutilation, defiling, defacing or trampling” of the American Flag or North Carolina flag can result in a Class 2 misdemeanor charge, which carries a penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Kneeling during the National Anthem is not mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, but many see kneeling during the anthem as a sign of disrespect to America and those who have fought and died for America.

However, in the Flag Code there are things everyday people do to disrespect the flag that we mostly take for granted.

Remember those Super Bowl pre-games when the National Anthem is being played and a giant flag is typically carried onto the field and spread horizontal to the ground being held on all sides by as many as 50-plus people?

Well, according to the Flag Code, Respect for the Flag, Article C says that the flag should “never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

Wouldn’t that mean the flag is being disrespected by just being held up out on the field?

Get this: one of the Flag Code rules is flag apparel and clothing involving the American flag.

Section 8, Article D says that “the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”

I’m guilty on this score, because I have an American flag necktie and T-shirt; both of which I proudly wear when the notion strikes me, but I never tied either to my patriotism.

No matter how patriotic it may seem to wear my American flag shirt, it disrespects the flag according to the Flag Code.

Kneeling during the anthem has been debated and players vilified from the President on down for almost a year now, but nowhere in the Flag Code does it say kneeling during the anthem is against the Flag Code.

Before someone calls out players for kneeling, like one of my heroes: retired Dodgers baseball broadcaster Vin Scully did last week – declaring himself an NFL fan, but now says he will not watch another NFL game, in person or on TV – why not think of the real ways people “disrespect” the flag.

Our military swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, not the flag; a Constitution that allows for peaceful protests and the right to free speech. Kneeling is an act of reverence, an act of respect. How many people know that when the folded flag is handed to the family of a deceased soldier it is done while kneeling, not standing?

More than knowing the Flag Code, maybe we should look at kneeling during the National Anthem through the eyes of those making a statement – even one we disagree with – and not through the vision of our vanity and our pride.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.