A controversy is brewing over whether the United States might break tradition and dip the American flag at the opening ceremony for the London Olympics. However, the American Legion said to do so would not only violate the U.S. Flag Code, but would also be un-American.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, told Reuters they were discussing the matter internally.
“We’ve talked about that a little bit and you never know what is going to happen,” Blackmun told the news agency.
But later a spokesman for the USOC sent Fox News a statement Blackmun’s comments and calling the Reuter’s report “not accurate.”
“We have made an official recommendation to the athlete, not to dip the flag,” the spokesperson told Fox News. “We have also spoken to the athlete advisory committee and they are in agreement. Furthermore, she has accepted the recommendation and does not plan to dip the flag.”
“End of story,” the spokesman wrote. “Period.”
“We have traditions, Britain has traditions, everybody has traditions,” Blackmun said in remarks covered by Reuters. “It is not an issue that we see as a big issue.”
But Mike Buss, deputy director of the American Legion, said it is a very big issue.
“No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States,” he said reading from the U.S. Flag Code. “The flag should not be dipped to any person or thing.”
He said he believes dipping the American flag at tonight’s ceremony would be un-American.
“There are many patriotic Americans who would say it is a big deal,” Buss told Fox News. “You don’t dip the United States flag to honor other countries.”
There is no policy that obligates the flag bearer to dip or not dip the flag, a USOC spokesman told the New York Times at a London press conference.
Buss said it’s the law – federal law – although there are no civil penalties for breaching flag etiquette.
“The bigger issue is people don’t understand there are rules and regulations for proper display of the flag,” he said. “Maybe the USOC didn’t realize this is an issue.”
It’s not the first time the USOC has courted controversy over American patriotism.
The revelation that the USA’s Olympic uniforms were made in China led to widespread and bipartisan outrage.
“The U.S. Olympic Committee was 100 percent wrong to outsource the manufacturing of U.S. uniforms for the opening ceremony to China,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told the LA Times.
Fencer Mariel Zagunis was selected to lead the 529-member U.S. team into Olympic Stadium. She told Reuters that she was aware of the tradition of not dipping the American flag.
The New York Times reported that she appeared “flummoxed” when asked at a press conference about her intentions.
The tradition of not dipping the flag can be traced back to shotputter Ralph Rose. Historians said he refused to dip Old Glory during the 1908 Summer Games in London.
“This flag dips for no earthly king,” he reportedly said.
The United States stopped dipping the flag at the opening ceremony in Berlin in 1936.