Roy Moore (AP/Brynn Anderson)

Roy Moore believes that NFL anthem protests are magically "against the law"

The hard-right Senate candidate argued that taking a knee is a crime — but, um, it's not


Charlie May
October 18, 2017 10:56PM (UTC)

Candidate for one of Alabama's Congressional Senate seats Roy Moore insisted that it's illegal for professional athletes to kneel during the national anthem Wednesday. It really, really isn't.

"It’s against the law, you know that?" Moore said in an interview with TIME Magazine. "It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law."

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The disgraced Alabama Supreme Court chief justice argued that the current athletes (NFL players in particular) who engage in protest are in violation of, as TIME noted "a section of the U.S. code which outlines how people should conduct themselves when the anthem is played." The publication helpfully added that "the code merely outlines proper etiquette, and there are no legal penalties outlined in the law." Phew.

To that point, Moore himself didn't speak of any punishments that might be doled out to players or really anyone anywhere on U.S. soil who does not stand during the national anthem (look around any baseball stadium during its signing on a balmy August night and you'll see that our jails would be overflowing with a new crop of indolent Americans.) It's pretty nice we all have that whole First Amendment thing going for us.

Here, Moore's rhetoric echoes that of President Donald Trump who has repeatedly demanded the NFL change its policy on the national anthem. Tuesday and again in a press conference Wednesday morning, the league demurred. Following a series meetings between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, team owners, union representatives and players, the league decided that a new rule compelling anyone to stand during the national anthem would not be established. Yes, the league and team owners will continue to work to end the protests, but through dialogue, not diktat.

"We just had two days of conversation with our owners. Our clubs all see this the same way. We all want our players to stand," Goodell said on Wednesday, according to NBC News. "We have about a half a dozen players protesting, and we're going to continue to work to try and get that to zero."

Late on Wednesday afternoon Trump continued his habit of talking to, and criticizing, the league directly through social media. ".@NFL: Too much talk, not enough action. Stand for the National Anthem," Trump tweeted.

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Moore, for his part, said he supported the president's criticism of the league and athletes who kneel during the anthem to highly racial injustices including the police killing of unarmed black men. "I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds," Moore said, according to TIME. "One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up."

It is actually not surprising that no one brought this up in the past given that the U.S. code is, again, not enforceable law. One would hope a former (albeit disgraced) judge such as Moore would know the difference, but what can you do?

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"If they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition," more continued. "But this is law. If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?" It is, again, not law.

Moore is backed by former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart News head, Steve Bannon as part of a larger attempt to challenge the Republican establishment in the 2018 primaries. Trump had initially supported Moore's primary opponent, Luther Strange, but then deleted his tweets of support following the outcome. The president has since turned to lauding Moore.

In other Moore news Wednesday, recent reporting has revealed that his foundation took a $1,000 donation from a group founded by white supremacist neo-Nazi, Willis Carto, in 2005. As well, polls have his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, ascendent and now pulling even with the Republican — so there's that.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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