Hey NFL? Why Are You Messing With My Flag?

I’m sure you’ve heard the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, and probably also seen the huge American flags covering much of a football field prior to an NFL game.

Is that left corner touching the ground?

So I’m here to tell you how wrong all this is.

The players who choose to kneel during the national anthem in silent protest to inequality are exercising their constitutional rights. The NFL is disrespecting the American flag.

Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(c) of the US Code states: “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

So every NFL pre-game festivity with the horde of volunteers pulling out the giant American flag over the field is violating the US Code.

Flag Code Violation

The NFL requires all players to keep an American flag decal on their helmet. Section 8(j) states that “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” It goes on to allow for members of the military, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations can have a flag patch (not a decal) on their uniforms. Even if you consider the NFL a patriotic organization (which is quite a stretch), the decal does not conform to the code.

The NFL players should remove the flag decal immediately so as to not disrespect our flag and our country.

The patriotic NFL charged taxpayers for flag displays.

So maybe the problem is really the NFL. First off, they did not have players on the field for the national anthem until 2009. That’s right, 2009. Before that, the players remained in the locker room. And it only began in 2009 because the NFL got the Department of Defense to pay the NFL millions of taxpayer dollars to make it a patriotic event, which they hoped would help recruitment. The NFL did not do this out of the goodness of their hearts or an abiding sense of patriotism. It was straight cash, homey.

I could easily get into the reasons why so many players feel the need to make a silent and respectful protest. I could trot out stats like 70% of the players are African-American and they are getting the attention of the fan base, 83% of which is white. And guess what? Everyone is talking about the subject now.

But I’m focused on the flag. The NFL is not treating it correctly. And chances are, you’ve seen the flag mistreated by your neighbors and friends, too. Let’s look at how.


Good ‘ole Section 8 has subsection (d) that states that “the flag should never be used as wearing apparel.” So the flag swimsuit you bust out for the Fourth of July? Disrespectful and against the US Code.

That ball cap with a flag patch on it? Again, it is disrespectful of our flag and you are in violation of the US Code.

The incorrect way to celebrate our freedom.

Subsection (i) is another one to watch out for, especially around that landmine of a holiday, the Fourth of July. “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” It goes on later to point out that the flag should not be “printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

I have an old high school friend who spent twenty years in the Marine Corps. He is retired now, after ably serving our country all over the globe. I’ve heard an interesting anecdote recently about him: he spends some of his free time going around and correcting people on how to display the American flag. Apparently, too many of them were doing it wrong.

Maybe the NFL should hire him.

But to help save you from a former Marine’s wrath (which I hear can be quite vicious), here are some tips in case you decide to put the American flag on display at your home.

  • “The flag should not be displayed when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.” US Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 6(c)
  • The flag should only be displayed at night if it is properly illuminated during darkness [Section 6(a)]
  • Don’t hammer a flag holder into a tree trunk and display the flag from there. Get a proper bracket on your home or install a flag pole.
  • Know the rules on displaying the American flag with any other flag (international, state, municipality) [Section 7 deals with this in great detail]
  • If a flag is no longer in good condition, it should be disposed of in a dignified manner, preferably by burning [Section 8(k)]

So what have we learned here?

  • The US Code concerning the American flag is fairly comprehensive. I would suggest looking it up online sometime
  • You should not feel free to take part of a law or code (or the Constitution) and adhere to only the part you like, while ignoring the other sections you don’t care about (or didn’t read)
  • The NFL is a business who’s main goal is profit, not patriotism (even if profit through patriotism works for it)

So I hope this has enlightened a few interesting aspects about the NFL and the flag. But despite all the references to the US Code I’ve included, please remember this little tidbit: The Unites States Constitution is the highest law of the land, and it gives the right to peacefully protest and freedom of speech. No one should be silenced.