Image by Toby (Yang) Yu via FlickrYesterday was 4th of July. The day we told England to stick it and that the American Colonies were no longer part of the British Empire. You may have seen numerous American Flags flown all day yesterday whether it be at a parade, while tailgating or outside of your neighbors house. I was raised by my parents to always show respect towards the American Flag and to fly it properly with care and respect. It always bugs me when I see the American Flag, or any type of flag for that matter, displayed improperly.
The reason I bring this up is because this morning when I woke up it was still dark outside. (I have a 14 week old son in the house and you can imagine I get up when it is dark outside a lot.) I looked outside and many of my neighbors left their American Flags out all night from displaying them the previous day. Although I appreciate their patriotism for flying the flag on July 4th, this is a major violation of the Flag Code. This got me to thinking about tailgating and how it is quite popular for tailgaters to fly flags in the parking lots. Many times I see tailgaters flying flags improperly and many of them do not know the proper flag flying etiquette. Here is a quick “how to” guide regarding the proper display of flags with special attention paid to doing it while tailgating.
- First and foremost, treat all flags with respect and common sense. That means you, the rabid sports fan, should not stomp or drag or desecrate any flag even if it is the flag of your most hated rival. If you are feeling especially nasty and want to demonstrate your distaste for the opposing team, do it to their star player’s jersey; never a flag.
- If you choose to fly another flag in conjunction with the American Flag, no flag should ever fly higher than the American Flag. When flying a state flag along with the American Flag on two separate staffs, the state flag may fly at the same height as the American Flag. (It is a misnomer that all state flags must fly lower than the American flag except the Texas State Flag. This is an urban legend. It is optional to fly a State Flag lower than the American Flag as a show of deference to the national flag.)
- You may display another country’s flag, i.e the Flag of Ireland while tailgating before a Notre Dame football game, but you should fly that nation’s flag at the same height, it be the same size as the American Flag and on a separate flag staff. Flying the flags of two independent nations on the same flag pole is disrespectful to both countries. If it is not possible to display two or more national flags at the same height, it is not proper to display then together at all.
- According to the Flag Code, it is not improper to display a state, city, county, team, organization, etc. flag by itself. It is preferable to display those flags along with the Stars and Stripes but the “lesser” flags may fly on their own.
- It is permissible to display the American Flag on the same pole as another flag (but not another country’s flag); however the American Flag must ALWAYS be displayed above any other. (Many would argue this is disrespectful and that the American Flag should only share a flag pole with a State Flag and never a team or organizational flag. Let your good judgment be your guide in cases like this.)
- Never display the flag after dark unless it is properly illuminated with a spotlight. In other words, if you are still tailgating and the sun has gone down, out of respect, please take a few minutes and take down your flags.
- You may be tailgating on a day like Memorial Day when you would normally fly the American Flag at half mast in remembrance of those who died in military battle. The proper way to fly a flag at half mast is to first hoisted it to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.