Patriotism via flag desecration

On the Fourth of July, and many other times of the year, people love the flag. And they prove it by not loving it, or at least not enough to respect it under the U.S. Flag Code, which is a pretty simple document that explains proper respect for the nation’s icon.

Every year around this time, we gather the list of examples of violations and each year we are impressed — stunned, really — by the endless displays of ignorance.

Here are this year’s “winners:”

The Minnesota State Fair takes top honors in the category of dishonor, and easily so. It held a “patriotic kitten” photo contest on Facebook. Loren Omoto spotted the problem all the way from Florida (and Jennifer Halgren spotted it in St. Louis Park). There isn’t enough space to post all of the violations, so let’s just pick the obvious one.
176.b (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

Minnesota State Fair

The State Fair promotion proved that people will do just about anything to get their cat on Facebook. Winners could’ve received a copy of the Flag Code on a Stick. But no.
176 (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

Minnesota State Fair

Matt Wells provides this version of the over-the-shoulder-patriotism-holder.
176(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

Tilly’s Clothing

Brigid Volk says she’s pretty sure she’ll get some candidates for this post at Thursday’s parade in Saint Peter, in the meantime she’s found the best violation of the Flag Code $98 can buy. Man who hates America is extra.


This person was doomed from the white belt on down. (h/t: Vince Tuss)


Christin Crabtree spotted this multiple offender at Ragstock in Roseville. Oh, say, can you figure out where to begin? The wearing of the flag is obvious, but there’s also the weird jack-o-lantern “carving” in it.
176(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

Christin Crabtree

Dan Murphy halted a honeymoon in Red Wing (a violation of a different code) to snap this photo of a store window there. Does anyone actually buy this stuff?

Dan Murphy

Eric Hall stumbled across Brianna Hall’s new nail job. Technically, a violation but she gets points for proper orientation of the flag, at least when she holds the nails this way. If she should keep her hands by her side tomorrow, it is an international sign of distress. Needless to say, any gardening is out of the question for Brianna in the near future.

@BriannaD4 via Twitter

The picture Conrad Wilson used to illustrate his story at St. Cloud State University revealed three possible violations. Can you name them?

MPR Photo/Conrad Wilson

Baseball is mom, apple pie, and flag desecration. One could make the argument that it’s not really the flag, but baseball calls its collection the “Stars and Stripes” collection. No sale.
176(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

Major League Baseball

The New York Times declares its independence from proper respect for the flag.
176(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

New York Times

And the Star Tribune followed suit on its Facebook page. (h/t: Ben Chorn)

Star Tribune’s cover photo on Facebook

Et tu, British beer company?

And you, Burger King. (h/t: Mark Snyder)

Words with Friends

Now, this requires some more research. An American flag urn, forwarded by Bill Childs. We’re going with “violation,” again under the admonishment that the flag shouldn’t be used to hold anything.

Which is why this is a violation, too. Forwarded by Andy Fetzer. “I live in the far western suburbs of Chicago and I often see what I feel is a perfect example of a bad idea gone badly.” There are any number of problems here. But this flag is rusting.
176(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Andrew Fetzer

Sometimes, though, you just have to make an exception. Editorial cartoonist Steve Sack gets a pass for his cartoon today.

Star Tribune

Keep the violations coming. You can post images in the comments section below.

  • Chas Brose

    Often see many people in flag apparel visible at political rallies and conventions, you would think they would know better.

  • DavidG

    I don’t the Twin’s cap qualifies as a flag. If it does, then by the same logic, any standard red white and blue bunting is a flag.

    By the same token the Sack cartoon, while evocative of it, doesn’t really qualify as a US Flag: 15 stripes, for starters.

    • True. but there’s an established way to display bunting too.

    • JC

      How about the helmet logo for the New England Patriots?

      • that’s a very good question. No ruling from here.

  • Ralfy

    Thanks for grinding my axe for me! From the flags on fashion clothing to uniforms for everything from sports teams to sewer cleaners. From flags on Pepsi cans to used car lots to every single political ad made in my lifetime. The list is staggering, and my bride is tired of my commenting.

  • Ben Chorn
  • Here is the aforementioned picture…

  • RMA

    Pretty much every night I look out my windows to see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violating the code by flying the flag at night over the St. Anthony Falls lock with no illumination.

  • Peggo

    But a photo of a flag is not a flag. So, while I agree with the violations call on the cats wrapped in flags, that shirt in the window is clearly a picture of a flag on a shirt. The death head cut out of a flag is a violation, but the twins cap isn’t….. Otherwise, if there was a photo of a flag in the newspaper, we couldn’t put it in the birdcage.

  • Tom Bernhardt

    Most Harley Davidson apparel and even some of their advertising.

  • Cara

    Perhaps I don’t understand, but isn’t the image of a flag different from a flag itself? So it’d be illegal to make slacks, or a tee shirt, out of a flag, but to print the image of a flag on slacks or a tee shirt would be okay. Or am I wrong?

  • All great questions and comments and the reason I do the post every year. And I didn’t even have to post the image of the American flag jockstrap.

    • Donna

      I believe it should be wrong for any other country to manufacture our flag for we in the USA to purchase. I do not like seeing “made in China” on an American flag.

      • It IS illegal in Minnesota. Which I’ve always found to be incredibly ironic.

    • JC

      Yikes! The very idea hurts my head.
      What about the flag being used to promote the Updraft/weather page on this website?

  • Betsy

    I am more concerned by the tattered flags displayed on flag poles throughout the city.
    It’s a disgrace for our flag to be flown in this condition.

  • Jsbattan

    I thought that the clothing rule was lifted/changed in the late 70’s. besides- where do you draw the line between the actual flag (as in one you can put on a flag pole) vs. white stars on a blue field and red/white stripes?

  • Linda

    Apparently the Olympic team can’t even get the flag right (wrong number of stars).

  • Michael Cavlan RN

    Dear God- So much wrong here. On oh so many levels. The flag that should be displayed is the flag that replaces the stars with corporate logo’s. That would be honest. Or indeed as many Native Americans and others who are aware and awake- Flying the flag upside down- as a signal of distress. Of course- a flag being burned at a rally- that opposes the policies of the current corporate occupied government and it’s series of illegal wars- wire tapping – spying and other actions ripping the Constitution and Bill Of Rights to shreds – showing opposition and resistance to said actions would be very appropriate.
    Not that MPR or the rest of the corporate media would ever report these actions by the governement. Instead you all would simply attack those burning your ear sacred corporatized symbol. No indeed. You have to go to the Guardian or other news media outside of this country to get these facts about governmental abuses of power.

    Free Bradley Manning- Give Edward Snowden the Congressional Medal Of Honor. Provide the Guardian Newspaper and Chris Hedges (former Nnew Yawk Times Middle East correspondent who can no longer get a job in the US corporatized media- the First Amendment Award- For doing what the media here does not do- Be a watch dog to those in power- instead of what you are all doing- being lap dogs to those in power.

    • A flag is only as powerful

      So grateful to find a person with sense. While some are outraged about the treatment of fabric; I am deeply concerned about the actual living people. This man saw me wearing a scarf that has Stars and Stripes on it at a protest against the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, or rather the trial against a murdered child, and he decided to make an example of me and my “violation” of “our” flag. He chose to ignore or simply cannot see the spirit of what I was up to. Which was to remind everyone that we are all in support of what America claims to be and we can all stand united. Instead of taking the day off to respect the grief that is happening in this major error of justice for a young murdered boy, Bob Collins decides that I, wearing Stars and Stripes, should be seen as out of order.

      • You make it sound as if I invented the law which indicates the proper way to show respect for the flag and deliver the message you want to deliver and what constitutes a flag. I didn’t. I just happen to know of it.

  • Elizabeth T

    Call on rule violation? … It’s rather popular at international soccer competitions, esp. on the scale of the World Cup, for fans to have their nation’s flag to wave. Would you find this an acceptable use, predicated, of course, on the various other rules, *especially* the ones about not letting it touch the ground and not wearing it as a garment.

    i realize it’s far after the 4th … but I’ve been out enjoying the sweltering heat of our Minnesota homeland for the past few days in a tent. The rule that annoys me the most is the requirement to have a flag in good condition. A bullet-riddled tattered battle standard on display in the capitol is one thing – it was damaged in service to the nation. Someone who can’t be bothered to pay attention to it ought not to be displaying it.

    • There’s nothing wrong with waving the flag at a soccer match. One insufferable “tradition” with the flags in sports is track and field people wearing it as a cape after they win a race. WRT no flag pole, a flag can be displayed vertically, but there is a proper orientation as observed from the street. See the link to the code above.

  • Elizabeth T

    2nd question: what is an acceptable manner of displaying the flag if you don’t have a flag pole? e.g. someone living in an apartment/condo who wants to display the flag on a national holiday. Is hanging it in the window (in the correct orientation) acceptable?