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What’s considered disrespectful to flag, veterans subject to change

Baltimore Ravens fans talks about their difference of opinions about kneeling during the anthem. (Baltimore Sun video)

I've been to ballgames where the national anthem is disrespected, so I can understand why people get upset.

I'm not talking about the players. I'm talking about people in the stands. They laugh, talk, slurp beer, head to the bathrooms — they can't even be bothered to take off their hats.

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It's a rare game you don't see this behavior. (I will note, since I've been to games at all three stadiums, that Ravens fans are more polite than either Eagles or Redskins fans. The "Don't Be a Jerk" campaign seems to work.)

I haven't been to a game where a player took a knee, but I doubt it would bother me.

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Taking a knee strikes me as a serious, even solemn, act, even if I disagreed with the reason behind it. It's far less objectionable than the casual disrespect so often displayed toward the flag and anthem.

I've also heard that players' taking a knee insults not merely the flag but everybody who has ever served in the military.

Here's what I consider an insult to someone who served in the military: an insult to someone who served in the military.

Speaking of Sen. John McCain, President Donald Trump said, "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

It would be jarring to hear such a comment from a fellow soldier who served in combat (though I have a hard time imagining a fellow soldier doing so). It's surreal coming from Mr. Trump.

President Donald Trump's ongoing fight with professional athletes has one purpose: to inflame racial tensions.

Mr. McCain was held in a North Vietnamese prison for more than five years. He was tortured.

Because his father was an admiral, he was offered an earlier release than his fellow prisoners. He turned it down.

That requires character of higher order than most of us possess, however much we'd like to think to the contrary. Not enough to impress Mr. Trump though.

Mr. Trump escaped the draft, claiming bone spurs in one of his feet. He can't remember which one. During those same years, he said, he was the best baseball player in New York City. It must have been a strange injury.

My point, however, is not to attack Mr. Trump. We all know he is what he is. I just wonder why people consider him as an acceptable messenger on this issue.

Even more bizarre, the president faces a full plate of serious issues: everything from North Korea to the continuing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. And yet he and the vice president seek to divide Americans by stoking an emotional wedge issue. To what purpose?

Mike and Karen Pence, wearing a Manning No. 18 jersey, left Lucas Oil Stadium after the national anthem, following instructions from President Donald Trump.

Another charge is that players like Colin Kaepernick shouldn't protest at all because they make a lot of money. They should be happy to live in America. They should keep their opinions to themselves.

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I'm not sure what Mr. Kaepernick is being charged with here. Too much character?

Unlike most people who express their opinion, Mr. Kaepernick took a chance when he took a knee. It took guts to do what he did. And it seems he has suffered the consequences.

"Don't bring him here, I'll become a Steelers fan and trash all my memorabilia!!"

A credible NFL starter, Mr. Kaepernick can't even get a job as a back-up quarterback.

I remember when wearing the flag as an article of clothing was considered by many to be disrespectful.

We've gone 180 degrees on this issue. It's now perfectly acceptable for people to literally wrap themselves in the flag. You can wear it on your head. On your butt. Wherever.

One recent article favorably noted how fans booed players after they took a knee during the anthem. It was accompanied by a photo of a young woman. She was wearing an American flag on her head and a top that was cut out to direct maximum attention to her chest.

It was a weird get-up that some Americans, of an earlier day, would have considered disrespectful to the flag. But somehow I doubt she heard any complaints from present-day patriots.

Don Flood (don.g.flood@gmail.com) is a political columnist who divides his time between Lewes, Del., and Grasonville, Md.

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