Of Flags and Football


Marcus Peters

Imagine that you invite me over for dinner, and we’re going to relax in the living room before the meal. You tell me I can sit anywhere I like, except for the big easy chair in the corner, because you say, that was your deceased father’s chair, and no one has sat in it since his passing.

I walk over and then sit in your father’s chair.

You are in shock. Then you are incredulous.

“I asked you not to sit in that chair!” you say.

“I know,” I say, “but this is a free country, and I have a right to sit wherever I like.”

I continue, “When I was growing up my father had an easy chair just like this that he never let us kids sit in, and I’m tired of people telling me where I can and cannot sit. There’s no law against me sitting here, is there?”

You get the point.

In fact there is a law that says we “should stand” for the National Anthem:

36 US Code, Section 301 – National Anthem

(a) Designation.— The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

(b) 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.

(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, § 595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)

Although the law does not specify a criminal charge nor penalties for not standing for the Anthem, it is nonetheless illegal to sit for it.

So who would enforce this affront to national patriotism? Local governments may pass ordinances that establish penalties if they so choose. What a rude awakening it would be if, for example, Kansas City Chief’s cornerback, Marcus Peters, who sat for the Anthem in a Thursday night NFL football game, was arrested on enforcement of a Massachusetts ordinance requiring adherence to the law.
Who would come out of the woodwork to bay in his defense? How many other NFL players or Hollywood stars would come out and offer to pay his bail?
In my humble opinion, jail would be too easy for him and others who pretend to be disgruntled over this or that. A public mocking, me thinks, would be in order. Put them in the public square in stocks! Make them work in veterans outreach programs, or clean toilets at the VA. Something that might get their attention as to why people like me may have had a violent reaction to his antics that fateful Thursday night.
There I was, watching the end of the pre-game show, nestling up to the almighty tube, in the comfort of my own home, my castle, my abode, when the music of one of the most beautiful songs a veteran can hear began to play. A song that still brings a tear to my eye, as the music and the flag bring me back to deployments at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Iraq.
While the music plays I can’t help but reflect on my and the sacrifices of millions of Americans, today and in years past, of my own ancestors who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War. I think about those who died on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, or those who were killed storming the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. I think of the Koren War veterans, the Vietnam veterans, the Desert Storm, Enduring and Iraqi Freedom veterans, and today’s proud and wonderful volunteers.
As this is going through my mind, and I am anticipating a really good football game, I see this scum-of-the-earth, two-bit wannabe, sitting on the bench with his helmet on! It’s bad enough you can’t stand, but you double-down and keep your head covered as well?
I had the worst Post Traumatic Stress episode I can remember.
I served 22 years in the Army, National Guard and Reserve, from October 1986 to December 2008. I was an enlisted combat medic for five years and then became a Medical Service Corps officer and finished as a major in rank. I spent about 2 1/2 years away from my family for three deployments between 9/11 2001 to December 2005.
I was angry for a time because it seemed like no one even knew or cared that there was a war going on. Then it hit me. that’s why we do what we do, we oathkeepers and sheep dogs. We do it so that everyone at home can go about their daily lives, unafraid and free.
I had some difficulty adjusting after Gitmo, and then after returning from a 14 month Iraq tour. I wanted to drive in the middle of the road. I shook and jumped at loud noises and fireworks. I have tinnitus. I didn’t sleep well.
All in all, it wasn’t that bad though, and the symptoms didn’t last that long. My loving and devoted family were always there for me. I am truly blessed that way.
I wrote a book  for catharsis, and then had it published. My friends and colleagues and Tweeple are all so very kind and supportive. I am truly blessed, and every day is a blessing.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I was happy, relaxed and excited about the game.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I loved professional football, head injuries and last season’s nonsense with Colin Kaeprinck notwithstanding.
Until I saw number 22 sitting down during the playing of the National Anthem I had my stuff together.
Then, it happened.
I lost it. Literally lost it.
I jumped up and started cursing uncontrollably. It was just me and my wife in the room, so I don’t think the kids heard anything. I was lit!
I turned the TV off, cursed the player, whose name I did not know until after the Anthem was over and NBC Sports announced it. I had turned the TV back on in hopes of taking a photograph of the player. They showed him again at the end, standing, looking around for some approval or recognition from someone, anyone. Nope. “You’re on your own, buddy,” I thought.
I turned the TV off again and then fumed.
How dare he? How could  he? Doesn’t he realized countless American patriots, including African Americans and all races, creeds religions and color DIED so that he could defy US Code and sit on his brains during the Anthem?
I shook, I blathered, I spat, I paced, I sweat, I breathed fire.
I didn’t even react that way when Kaepernick pulled his stunts last year. He went from knee to sitting out of “respect” for the military? Not good enough. I boycotted the San Francisco 49ers. Not hard to do in New York.
A few other players did similar stunts, but now it’s gotten wide-spread with the Seahawks, Packers, Rams, 49ers, Raiders, Eagles, Browns and Chiefs all having at least one player sit, eat a banana or show some other sign of protest (disrespect) during the National Anthem.
Let me explain to you just why I had that reaction. I have figured it out. We watch football in our homes. And like the “My Father’s Chair” scenario I painted for you in the beginning of this piece, our home is our personal, private domain, where we control everything that happens. We invite the NFL into our living rooms, dens and bedrooms for our own pleasure and entertainment. So when some knucklehead SITS for our National Anthem on TV, it is happening in OUR HOME.
That is offensive and disrespectful, just as if I had told Marcus Peters not to sit in my fathers chair . . . not only did he sit in it . . . he defiled it.
If any of these guys called for a press conference to discuss their pity-party snowflake fake news butt hurt NO ONE would come, and NO ONE would listen. They are a privileged few.
Less than one percent of all high school football players ever play football on scholarship in college. Less than one percent of all college football scholarship players ever make it on an NFL team. Who are they kidding? Who do they say they represent when they sit? Why can’t they start a fund, or a charity? Donate time and money to causes they care about. Why disrespect all patriotic Americans on national TV?
It’s a drive-by assault on American values.
And the NFL? Completely complicit. The NFL FINES players for wearing the wrong SOCKS on game day. And if a player SITS during the national Anthem? Nothing. Whose values do the Commissioner of the NFL and NFL owners (who are also complicit) pretend to represent when they allow players to SIT for the National Anthem?
The NBA has it right. They require players to stand for the National Anthem. But for how long?
If anyone doubts that standing and showing respect for our National Anthem isn’t the internationally respected norm, witness this video of world champion Jamaican, Usain Bolt, interrupt an interview to show his class and respect for our Anthem.
There was a college basketball coach who invited some veterans to a practice one day, and then told the players how and why they will stand for the National Anthem. Watch it. Have your kids watch it. Send it to your favorite NFL football player.
Of flags and football. It’s about RESPECT.

19 responses to “Of Flags and Football

  1. Wow !!! That says it all. Thank you
    I am sorry he triggered your PTS
    Scrum doesn’t cover it
    God Bless you and thank you again for putting into words what many many ppl feel

  2. Imagine that you were a free Black slave promised your freedom by the masters if you fight for the Confederacy and survive only to be sold off when you for your family’s freedom papers only to be sold away from them.
    Imagine being the very 1st. Military ship to land in Normandy to realize you were put there as the bait for the Whites to land with knowledge of who is there, because you are Black.
    Imagine you fighting in WWII and your Black platoon sent 1st. in enemy lines and the White soldiers retreat and leave dead soldiers and you bleeding in the snow for 3 days until they comeback. You are put in a decompression chamber for 6 months to thaw in a foreign country and live to be 89 years old with severe rheumatoid arthritis with no relief of pain. Jim Crow laws and discrimination kept you from decent housing even with your VA benefits, oh don’t the curfews for Blacks back then until the early 70’s.
    Imagine you were a Black man accepted in Cornell University, but drafted into the Vietnam War and your 11 month older brother to leaving a mother with no sons. The drafting selection orders were to draft Blacks 1st., poor Whites 2nd as infantry, but the scrimmage/war wasn’t an easy win as thought, so back to Blacks in universities and finally Whites enrolled in college, which when the protest began against Vietnam.
    Imagine volunteering for the military and greedy rich American people want oil from the Middle East, so you are engaged in a dessert only to be still mistreated by a systemic racist DISRESPECTFUL society simply because you are Black.
    Imagine you are a parent of a son that is Muslim who loses his life for the America and the President of USA stands before the world to diminish him.
    Finally, imagine every time that you are pulled over by the police whether you are Black man or woman with no criminal behavior or history, you are awaiting an unwarranted execution. Those players and me have someone in each or all of those scenarios and we are to sing with glee a flag or anthem that didn’t take us in account from their inception?
    Note: please excuse any grammatical or tyagraphical errors for this was written on my phone.

    • So this perceived disrespect is why rich, privileged black men are disrespecting everyone else? Ever heard that an eye-for-an-eye leaves everyone blind? These me are looking for a pound of flesh, but instead reap what they sow: disillusionment, disdain and fruitless effort. Their actions have had the opposite effect that they intended. Black guilt for not inflicting enough white guilt has gotten out of hand, me thinks. If I spit in your face do you really care what I have to say? There are no more living slaves, and there are no more living slave owners. Instead of kneeling for something, how about standing up for something? When asked what he thought about the black entertainers who were boycotting the Academy Awards a few years ago, Oscar Winning actor, Louis Gossett, Jr. said on the red carpet, “We are all one family, the American family.” Indeed, one family, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Amen. Why can’t we all just get along? I think it has something to do with a false narrative perpetrated by the Liberal Left, but this has nothing to do with oppression or free speech or Donald trump, and it has everything to do with RESPECT. Want it? Earn it.

  3. I agree whole completely with everything in this piece. One service man to another, I thank you and salute you brother.
    Fair winds and fallowing seas.
    HM3(SW) Brownfield USN Veteran

  4. Thank you for your Service. From one Veteran to another, I could not have said it any better. I am canceling my NFL Direct Ticket.
    There are better things to do on Sundays. Such as be thankful for this Great Country & the sacrifices of the Soldiers that have allowed us to live Free.


  6. Pingback: Bergdahl and Honor | Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay

  7. First, I want to thank you for your service; thank you.

    Now, I have to say I totally disagree with your opinion on this matter. The protesters are not standing because they do not respect the military/verterans, they are doing it to protest the murder of innocent black men & women. The flag is supposed to represent freedom and justice for ALL, but black people are not getting that justice. So the players who are not standing, being black themselves & this being a personal matter for them, are getting the attention of millions of people who watch them protest to recognize this fact, and hope to change it.

    I have heard many people use the argument that the players should protest on their “own time” & not during the game. But what they are protesting is the fact that this country is not fulfilling the law, and the flag is supposed to represent that law. The flag is flown during the game, and with the law not being fulfilled for them, how can you expect them to stand for something the doesn’t represent them? You feel disrespected?? Have you tried to put yourself in their shoes & try to really see it from their POV? Judging by your rant, I would say not. You only reacted to your feelings & POV, and took a stance without even trying to understand why these players weren’t standing. Some of these players have/had family in the military. They do not disrespect them. They are saying my family & ancestors fought for the rights of this country too, and were not receiving those rights and we can’t stand by & do nothing about it. They are saying: “We’re not going to take it anymore!” And whether you like it or not, having served our country & fought for our rights, one of those rights is the right to protest… even the flag… and that is what makes our country great; that we can express our dissent for our government without fear of prosecution. Just look at what’s happening in Egypt. For example, a man was sentenced to three years in jail for posting a picture of the Egyptian President with Mickey Mouse ears photoshopped onto his head. And look at all the people that are being sentenced for ridiculous jail time for “inciting debauchery” …really just meaning they did something the Egyptian President didn’t approve of. Like Shyma, the Egyptian pop singer, who was indicted & sentenced to two years in prison for making a music where she eats a banana! That is NOT what we want our country to turn into; being scared that our freedom is going to be taken away for something that isn’t illegal… but unfortunately that is what is happening with back people in this country. And instead of rushing to judgement of boycotting the NFL teams with players that kneel, we need to ALL get together to make sure that ALL people are being represented by our government, and that they have their rights & freedoms.

    I see so many people rush to judgment, including yourself, calling these men “knuckleheads” and saying they are being “offensive and disrespectful” but they’re not. They are protesting the government that is supposed to represent them, but isn’t, and that IS an American value. Just because one stands for the National Anthem, that doesn’t make them a good American. Standing for 1 minute & 22 seconds (approximately) is not indicative of how good of a person you are, how lawful you are, or how great your American Values are; it’s what you do with the rest of your time that really matters.

    And lastly, you conveniently left out the part of the text of ‘36 U.S.C. § 301’ that says that is suggestive and not regulatory in nature. Failure to follow the suggestions is not a violation of law. This behavioral requirement for the national anthem is subject to the same First Amendment controversies that surround the Pledge of Allegiance. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not sing the national anthem, though they are taught that standing is an “ethical decision” that individual believers must make based on their “conscience.”

    The players who are not standing are doing so because they can not stand in good conscience as is their right as an individual to decide what they do while the National Anthem is playing/the Flag is risen.

    P.S. Your “My Father’s Chair” analogy doesn’t hold a candle to the NFL players’ protest. As I said, their protest is not a personal attack on you! Or any individual, Military or not; it is a protest against the Flag not representing the rights of ALL people. And instead of jumping to conclusions & deciding how people should act based on what you believe is the correct way to behave, as an American Veteran you should continue to want to see our rights & freedoms being fought for.

    • Thank you for your support and for your comment. I respectfully disagree with your reasoning. First, the playing of OUR national Anthem and respecting OUR flag is not political, it is patriotic. In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., never marched without many American flags, as he considered it the symbol of AMERICAN freedom and liberty for all. Dr. King, as an example and leader for ALL Americans, never disrespected the flag or knelt during the Anthem, nor would he approve of such petty and selfish actions. The Alt_Left have highjacked common decency and a sense of togetherness among Americans. Their goal is to separate us and point out differences instead of emphasizing our similarities and common ground. The flag and the Anthem are common ground for Americans, like the Pledge of Allegiance, Thanksgiving and Independence Day (4th of July). You mention rights and privileges, but these things do not exist without RESPONSIBILITIES. Some take the responsibility of defending this nation, against all enemies, foreign and domestic so seriously that they write a blank check to you, me and the kneelers for everything up to and including their lives so that we may live with freedom and liberty. If anyone, including the privileged class of citizens who are blessed to play in the NFL for millions of dollars, feel they have been slighted, falsely accused or discriminated against they have many appropriate avenues of redress of their grievances. They may visit local authorities and representatives, state and national authorities, associations, or have private attorneys they may hire. THAT is a citizen’s responsibility. Those who make broad statements and attempt to politicize the patriotic miss the mark and should be shunned. Those who take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for their actions and their grievances do not attempt to politicize the patriotic. I will never respect or support a person who defiles our common ground for personal gain. They can do that on their own time.

  8. Your comparison is invalid. Black people are not “guests” in your household. We are all members of the same household called America. So it’s not your chair to decide who sits in it and who doesn’t. Your father worked hard to buy the chair so that all members of our household could sit in it or not. We’re not going to relegate 10% of our household to standing and waiting on your every want and desire. That’s called slavery.

    • You took the analogy in a different direction. It wasn’t meant to suggest anything about race (why do you make things about color?). If you read the article you’d know there is a LAW requiring citizens to stand respectfully. Don’t you ever just do something because it’s the right, respectful thing to do, like not interrupt someone when they’re talking, or keep quiet in a movie theater? We do things sometimes just because we would want others to treat us the same way. If I tell you it really upsets me that you take a knee, why would you do it anyway if not to upset me on purpose? How does your perceived “right” to disobey the law also give you the right to desecrate my loyalty to my country? Take a step back and think, gee, is there some possible other way you could express yourself and not piss someone off on purpose? I have tradition, patriotism and togetherness on my side. You have disobedience, disrespect and hatred on your side. Eve Usain Bolt knew to stand and give respect when he heard the National Anthem playing.

Leave a Reply to mjgranger Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s