Forget the Kaepernick controversy — you shouldn’t be wearing the American flag in the first place

Forget the Kaepernick controversy — you shouldn't be wearing the American flag in the first place

If this recent Nike controversy has suddenly convinced you that the Betsy Ross flag — the one with 13 stripes and 13 stars — is equivalent to the swastika or Confederate flag designs adopted decades after the Civil War to oppose civil rights, then I think you’re just really a stupid person. That flag, which flew at Barack Obama’s inauguration and also at George Washington’s, has never had and does not now have such a significance. And your views aren’t worthy of even this much of my time.

That’s me being diplomatic.

That said, if you’re one of those very different sorts of people who feel deeply invested in having Nike put American flags on its shoes, then you are also very misguided.

Nike Betsy Ross shoes.jpg
Nike Betsy Ross shoes.


I find it hilarious and profoundly fatuous that a sub-par quarterback like Colin Kaepernick can mau-mau Nike’s entire corporate decision-making apparatus into a pants-filling panic. I find it unfortunate that an American company would be so quick to turn on its national roots, allowing only its cowardice to supersede the greed that motivates its obeisance to China’s despotic regime.

But quite frankly, their real mistake was in ever attempting to use a historic version of our flag as their marketing gimmick. It’s disrespectful to our nation, and in fact technically illegal, even if the law in question is considered advisory and never enforced.

The U.S. Code contains a section on respect for the United States flag. Americans who love their country, liberal and conservative, should swear by it.

It contains a lot of things you’d probably expect, about not letting the flag touch the ground, for example. Another provision:

The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

Looking at you, drama queens who do this whenever the wrong guy wins the presidential race.

But here’s the section you ought to look at more closely:

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.


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…No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.

If Nike is to be condemned, this is the primary reason.

And that goes for all of the other companies that disrespect the American flag by using it for their own commercial purposes. As the U.S. Code notes, “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” Stop abusing it. And help spread awareness this July 4 of the proper manners that are due to the flag that stands for our republic.

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