Not standing during the national anthem won’t get you arrested here in the United States, but it won’t make you any friends, either.
In the style of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, some of the East Carolina University marching band kneeled Saturday during the national anthem at their school’s football game.
The band was booed for their action.
The statute, 36 U.S. Code § 301, explains behavior during the playing of the anthem:
Conduct During Playing — During a rendition of the national anthem—
(1) when the flag is displayed
(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;
(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and
(C) 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; and
(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
Similar statutes address flag etiquette and conduct during the Pledge of Allegiance. These statutes don’t include language that would make it a criminal offense to disobey the guidelines.
While the majority of Americans get upset when someone doesn’t pay allegiance to this country, the protesters are free to not stand. It used to be illegal to burn a flag, but that was overturned in 1989.
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” said Justice William Brennan in 1990.
This quote addressed flag burning, but the idea is the same. We live in a free country with so many diverse thoughts and cultures, that we are bound to run into people who do not share any ideals with us. And that’s ok.
You don’t need to like anything anyone else does, if you don’t want to. I personally do not like seeing citizens disrespect our flag, anthem or military. However, I recognize it’s their choice to make, not mine.
There are some countries in which the East Carolina University marching band would have been arrested and put on trial for their actions this weekend, if not worse.
Thankfully, we do not live in those countries.
Respect your fellow American’s rights, as they should respect yours.