A newspaper photograph of a baseball player caught my eye this morning. Specifically, a photograph that showed the player wearing a uniform based on the U.S. flag. This was an American Legion baseball team from South Dakota. Great looking uniform, especially for a team hosting its annual Firecracker tournament. Here’s a link http://rapidcityjournal.com/sports/legion-baseball-melendez-deals-hardhats-past-defending-champs/article_36b6d5d1-7462-5f07-ac94-a5eafb540519.html to the photo on the Rapid City Journal website. Yet something in the back of my mind led me to wonder…
The point of this isn’t to stir a controversy, but here’s the answer. Title 4 of the U.S. Code, our body of federal laws, states: “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.”
Here’s the link http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf to the Congressional Research Service paper on U.S. flag law. It’s important to note there’s no penalty or punishment prescribed in the law, as the CRS paper notes, and the Flag Code is “merely declaratory and advisory.”
It’s possible the flag-style uniform being worn by Rapid City American Legion Post 22 baseball players was thoroughly debated, and a decision was reached that the style is merely an artistic reference to the U.S. flag. No question that wearing a uniform based on the U.S. flag is a patriotic expression. And if the practice was ever challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court likely would find it’s protected expression under the U.S. Constitution.