The US Navy is trying to get ahead of what many people are calling the Kaepernick Effect. This, in simple terms, was brought about by NFL player Colin Kaepernick who has been refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Recently, two sailors have followed suit by not standing when the Star Spangled Banner was played. To address this, Navy Reserve Forces Command has recently published guidance in which it warns sailors that they can be punished for such protests.
The guidance is directed at both active-duty sailors and reserve personnel on active duty. It is based on Navy Regulation 1205. The regulation contains the mandate that naval personnel who are in uniform must stand at attention and face the flag when the national anthem is played. The new guidance also reminds personnel of a 2009 administrative message that requires Navy active-duty personnel in civilian clothes to face the flag, stand at attention, and place their right hand over their heart. The guidance says, in part: “Additionally, Sailors receive training on the appropriate usage of social media, and must not use it to discredit the Naval Service, and should be reminded it could potentially be used as evidence against them.”
This new guidance is probably directed at two sailors who published posts on Facebook detailing why they were protesting the anthem. For those who refuse to obey the guidance, punishment under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice may occur. The message states clearly that this type of protest would constitute the commission of a serious offense, and could result in administrative discharge from the service.
The guidance also addressed issues concerning sailor’s First Amendment rights. It stated that the “US Supreme Court has already stated that the different character of our community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections.”
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