Is It Ever Ok Not To Stand for the Flag and National Anthem?

As the first note of the National Anthem is played, we as military families are used to stopping immediately and honoring the flag and the National Anthem.

It is cultural for us in many ways. But beyond being on a military base or post, standing and honoring the anthem is for most Americans, a time-honored tradition that we hold very dearly. Old Glory is held with great affection and love, for most, and we cling to it, and honor our flag and the National Anthem.

But, we live in a culture where there are those who kneel and rebel against the flag and the National Anthem. What then is the best way to show honor, respect and reverence? That can be directly answered with, flag/anthem etiquette and protocol. But before we can take on that, let’s visit the question… For all that are able-bodied, “Is Not Standing Ever Okay?”

Because of all that our flag stands for, and the freedom it signifies, ironically, it allows for the freedom to kneel, as the anthem is played. And as the red, white and blue blows briskly in the wind, people can protest the flag in this way. Simply stated, we do not live in communist China and every person has the right to stand or not stand, to kneel, sit or roll over should they choose.

Of course, the debate is not over whether someone has the right, but rather is this the right way to protest. When not showing proper respect to our nation’s greatest symbol of freedom, is that showing a level of disrespect to those who have sacrificed so much for that very freedom to protest in that way?

Or take it one step further, is one symbolically stepping, rather dancing on the graves of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives so that protests like this can be done freely and without recourse? Could it be that the offense is so great to those who have served and especially those lost in battle and their families, those without limbs, or cognitive ability, that there must be a more respectful way to protest social injustice?

No one would rationally argue that the right to protest should be taken away, rather weigh the damage, and specifically weigh the collateral damage to protest in this way. Could it be that we should respect the message, but the method is completely and outrightly offensive to most Americans? Especially to those in uniform, or those who have ever worn a uniform, in service to our great country. So, for me, the answer to this question is simple, and one that every person is free to answer.

But for me, “No, it is never okay.”

Our nation has certainly faced far greater challenges than NFL players who refuse to stand. And, we have faced and defeated formidable foes and enemies throughout our nation’s history.

I believe strongly that these protests do not cause us to waiver, but rather cause our patriotism to run deeper and stronger as Americans. We stand a little taller and remain standing a little longer after the anthem is played. We sing a little louder and prouder. Even possibly, we find a tear welling in the corner of our eye, as we humbly and solemnly honor all those who have sacrificed for every freedom we enjoy in this imperfect, yet greatest nation in all of history, The United States of America.

So, protest as you chose, you have that right, but do it with full knowledge that the blood of every veteran runs through the red stripes of that flag, and that their courage and valor runs through those 50, blue-encased white stars, and that their pure sacrifice is in every white stripe perfectly placed on that flag…the flag of the United Stated of America.

“The red, white and starry blue is freedom’s shield and hope.” John Philip Sousa 

Simple Flag Etiquette


  • Every precaution should be embraced to keep our flag from becoming, tattered, torn, soiled or damaged.
  • When holding the flag, do your very best to keep it from brushing against other objects.
  • Dry clean flags. If for some reason it gets wet, dry flat and do not fold or roll the flag during this process.
  • It is acceptable to trim or repair edges and resew stripes if flag is in overall good condition.

Saluting our Flag

  • When a flag passes by in a parade, civilians, place your right hand over your heart.
  • Men and women (civilians) with caps and hats, remove hat and hold it in your right hand over your heart.
  • Men and women in uniform should give an appropriate formal salute.

Displaying the Flag


  • It is considered acceptable to fly the flag from sunrise to sunset
  • It may be flown at night as long as it is appropriately illuminated.
  • The flag should be unfurled and raised at a moderate pace, and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.
  • In poor or inclement weather, the flag should not be flown.
  • On an angled staff, the flag projects horizontally or angled from a building, windowsill, balcony, etc. The blue union starts should be at the peak of the staff, except when at half-staff.


  • The flag of the United States of America always has the place of honor and should always be to the right of the speaker.
  • The flag should be at the center and at the highest point when with a grouping of flags.
  • When displayed against a wall either vertically or horizontally, the flag’s union stars should be at the top, to the flag’s own right, and those viewing or observing to their left.

Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem

In 2007, Congress highlighted protocol for the pledge and national anthem in 36 USC 301.

  • Every abled person should stand, regardless of age, face the flag and place their right hand over their heart for the entire allegiance and anthem.
  • If moving to your seat or in motion as the anthem begins, stop and follow the above guidelines.
  • When another country’s anthem is played, it is played first, before the National Anthem. Stand respectfully, but do not salute in any way.

“When to Fly the Flag”

  • On all days that the weather permits

Special Attention to the following days:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Inauguration Day
  • Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Mother’s Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • Memorial Day (Half-staff until noon)
  • Flag Day
  • Independence Day
  • Korean War Veterans’ Day
  • Labor Day
  • Patriots Day
  • Constitution Day
  • Gold Star Mothers’ Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Navy Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Election Day
  • State and Local Holidays
  • Your State’s Birthdays
  • Other Designated Days

Let us always hold these principles dear and share these etiquette guidelines. May it always be that shining symbol of freedom and may it always have the respect that it is due and rightly deserved.


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