Flag Knowledge and Etiquette for Olympians

The buzz about the 2012 Summer Olympics has amped up! Here are tips on flag etiquette for Olympians and everyone at home watching the games.

As retired Marine Corps veteran Richard Roamer watched segments on television of the 2012 Olympic Boxing team and Olympic track and field trials, he took note of the improper use of the American flag. In Roamer’s Letter to the Editor of the Jacksonville Daily News, he cited that athletes were wearing headbands and shorts that adorned the flag. Additionally, at the junior track championships, winners were handed large American flags, which they proceeded to drape over their heads and bodies – and subsequently touched the ground.

The U.S. Flag Code vehemently states “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,” and “the flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.”

Roamer went on to say, “Disrespectful display of the American flag is an affront to Americans and their families who have served and given their lives to protect the flag and freedoms we have…. I feel these acts are not patriotic but disrespectful to the flag and those that have given their all in defense of this country. ” While athletes think they are displaying their patriotism towards the United States, others feel they are being disrespectful to those who have defended the country.

Michael Phelps recently went to Twitter to express his discontent with the ban on showcasing more than one American flag on his apparel: “Front and back of our caps… We used to be able to have front and back side with flags but for some reason there are rules that tell us we cant do that anymore? Smh gotta love an organizing committee telling us we can’t do that anymore.”

Many Americans remain uneducated about the proper flag protocol for displaying and retiring American flags – and Olympic athletes should know proper use of the American flag if they are representing the United States at the worldwide event. The lack of knowledge about the American flag needs to be addressed so children, adults and athletes alike know how to respect the flag and what it stands for.

Source: JD News, Washington Post

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5 Replies to “Flag Knowledge and Etiquette for Olympians

    1. US Code is the official, compilation of the Federal laws of a general and permanent nature that are currently in force. The Code is divided into 50 titles by subject matter. Each title is divided into sections.

      US Flag Code is covered by Title 36, Chapter 10, Patriotic Customs and Title 4, Chapter 1, The Flag (there are some other minor references as well, but these two are the primary sections).

      So…yes, it is law, though there are no federal penalties established (except in DC). Those are decided by states and below. In fact, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 3, you’ll see that mutilation of and use of flag for advertising are punishable as a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $100 or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days, or both, in the discretion of the court.

  1. So why are US athletes allowed to drape themselves with our flag like a shawl or run with it over their heads like a high school banner and who is in charge of something so basic as respect and protocol at the Olympics? Worse yet, does the flag then get tossed aside or stuffed in a gym bag after the athlete makes a run with it? I highly doubt any of it is done out of disrespect, but rather pride in being from the USA….but honor trumps pride any day of the week. So who on the Olympic committee IS in charge of conduct?

    1. Although etiquette indicates that you should not use the flag in that fashion, etiquette is not a law and it comes down to personal choice. We do agree with your statement that you doubt it is done out of disrespect. As far as who on the Olympic committee was in charge of conduct, we are not sure.

  2. There’s a lot to be said about etiqitte. No it’s not law but respect for the symbol should be in line with respect for the freedom for which it stands and the respect of those who fought for said freedom.

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