We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
-Thomas Jefferson (Declaration of Independence)
Our U.S. flag (and thus by extension, our anthem to it) does not stand for, or symbolize, any certain crimes, brutalities, shortcomings, failures, or aberrations that have happened or are happening. It symbolizes a set of ideals, our founding principles, to which we should strive to align our lives and conduct.
I support the right to peaceful protest—which is one of the rights protected by our founding principles. I simultaneously point out, that someone choosing to protest the U.S. flag (and/or the anthem to it), gives the impression of them opposing or protesting the very ideals “for which it stands”—a point that my friend, John, and others, have made well.
It’s an unwise course of action to say one is standing up for equality by protesting a symbol of equality, and to claim one is standing for peaceful protest via protesting a symbol of peaceful protest. The very likely result of such is that onlookers will naturally tend to misunderstand what you’re trying to communicate. It’s tough to imagine anything other than that such a protest is not so much against aberrations, but against the very institution of America and its noble ideals.
It’s not as though the Declaration espouses brutality or racism.
The people who make their living understanding this sort of thing would call it “bad optics”—a phrase likely coined because when you draw a big salary for saying so, no doubt you need to speak with fancier language than just to say, “it looks bad.”
This is not a matter of whether or not the Constitution affords someone a free speech right that includes protesting against the U.S. flag (the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that anti-flag protests can be protected speech). It may well be a matter of whether an employment rule or contract stipulates to not make certain speech while on the company’s dime (which can mean an employee needs to refrain on company time, unless an issue is further affected by religious protection statutes that impact employers). Beyond all that, I’m talking about whether it is a wise, effective, smart way to push toward a legitimate goal. It seems not, which calls into question whether the actual goal is something other, something less legitimate.
For many Americans who love and support the noble ideals of America, and therefore stand for the symbols that stand for those ideals, such a protest looks bad. It looks legal, but wrong. It looks allowable, but bad. It makes them want to vote with their pocketbook and their feet, by boycotting the sports events where the management, owners, employers, and administrators choose to allow it to happen on the company’s dime and time.
Just because you can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that you should do that thing. Let me conclude with words from the Holy Bible:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.
— Paul the Apostle (I Corinthians 10:23, N.I.V.)