There's No Law Against U.S. Flag Merchandise (or Is There?)
The Fourth of July has come and gone, and we spent the day celebrating here in Philadelphia. From the start of the day to the finale of the fireworks display, American flag merchandise was everywhere to be seen. We wonder, however, how much of that merchandise technically is in conflict with federal law.
Did you know that there is a code of etiquette when it comes to displaying the U.S. flag? Here are a few rules for donning the stars and stripes:
- The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery.
- The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.
- 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. Advertising signs should not be fastened to staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
- 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.
Those points would seem to rule out staples of the promotional products industry, like napkins, tote bags, apparel and athletic uniforms. Yet U.S. flag items are commonly seen as giveaways.
WFAA8 spoke to retired U.S. Marine Damon Mitchell, a local flag expert, about what you can and can't do with the flag.
"Basically, any product that is temporary is not supposed to have a flag in any fashion," Mitchell told WFAA8. "Imprinted, like a picture of, or whatever, on there without disposing of it properly because it is a U.S. flag. So anything you put the American flag on is supposed to be treated like a U.S. flag."
While the code clearly states that the U.S. flag should not be used for items, like apparel and napkins, there's no penalty for violating it. That's still protected under the First Amendment.
So, even now that the Fourth of July is over, we should be on the lookout for more patriotic-themed items to come out as the Olympic Games draw nearer.