American Legion calls for attention to flag during National Anthem this summer; Colin Kaepernick delivers on promise

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With many headlines across the country centering on San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel in protest during the National Anthem during the most recent NFL season, one group recently outlined its expectations for young ballplayers regarding attention to the flag prior to each game.

American Legion Baseball has been a staple across all 50 states for nearly a century with the idea of allowing participants to compete on the field, while teaching the importance of sportsmanship, good health and active citizenship. While legion ball has lost some of its luster over the past decade because of independently run showcase and travel teams, the program still gives ballplayers of all income levels and social standings a place to play during the summer months.

The American Legion released its expectations for baseball teams during the playing of the national anthem.
The American Legion released its expectations for baseball teams during the playing of the national anthem.

At the height of the Kaepernick controversy this past October, the American Legion passed a resolution at its fall meeting in Indianapolis, outlining the organization’s expectation for rendering what it calls “proper respect to the flag during Legion program participation.”

Wilmington Post 10 has one of the most well-known baseball programs in North Carolina, with 10 state championships, including a trip to the American Legion World Series a few years back. Longtime Manager Scott Sandlin weighed in on the issue this week.

“We talk about it before each season how important it is to the people who run American Legion Baseball and how much it means to us,” said Sandlin. “We play in an organization run by veterans, many of whom sacrificed their lives for this country and our flag.

“If we ever did have someone who felt like they could not address the flag, we would want to educate them on all the good things the country is doing and good people who have sacrificed their lives for our country.”

Some young athletes across the country followed in Kaepernick’s footsteps in the days and weeks after his silent protest by deciding to kneel during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. A North Carolina referee also gained attention across the state for his decision to kneel for injustice at a high school football game. Whether or not a person decides to stand at attention during  anthem is a free speech matter, but Sandlin highlighted the need to be proactive when it comes to making change you believe in.

American Legion Baseball patch.
American Legion Baseball patch.

“My question to those who feel it’s necessary to not stand during the anthem is what are doing to make it right when it comes to some of the issues you feel strongly about?,” Sandlin said. “Are you out in the community working to help alleviate the problems you’re protesting?”

As stated in Resolution 16, The American Legion expects participants of its programs to show respect to the U.S. flag at all times, including during the national anthem. It recommends for department and post leaders of all Legion programs to clearly state to individuals in advance of program participation about the organization’s expectation. If a participant involved in any Legion program “cannot or will not” meet the Legion’s expectation, the resolution states that “the individual should not be a participant in American Legion programs.”

“The American Legion does not deny the right to protest, for that is a privilege given to all citizens of this great nation that is protected by our military and the service of our membership to defend our democracy,” said Richard Anderson, Americanism Commission chairman. “To foster and perpetuate a 100 percent Americanism’ defines our responsibility to instill character, citizenship and sportsmanship, among other values. Resolution 16 defines only a small commitment to our youth, to maintain the values upon which The American Legion was founded.”

In addition to standing and facing the flag leading up to first-pitch during each American Legion Baseball game, players are also asked to recite the American Legion Code of Sportsmanship as part of the organizations traditional values. The code of sportsmanship is: “I will keep the rules. I will keep faith with my teammates. I will keep my temper. I will keep myself fit. I will keep a stout heart in defeat. I will keep my pride in victory. I will keep a sound soul, a clean mind and a healthy body.”

In regard to Kaepernick, while the focus of the NFL season has moved into the playoff push and big game next month, the 49ers backup has lived up to his a promise made during his time in the spotlight. Kaepernick took to Instagram to say he would donate $100,000 per month for 10 months plus all proceeds of his jersey sales to charities that help oppressed communities.

Immediately after making the declaration, Kaepernick’s jersey sales moved to number one of all NFL players. Currently, the jersey is not listed among the top 25 sellers at NFLshop.com.