Free Speech and Disruptions

Do high school football fans have a constitutional right to display the American flag at games?

That question headlined Jacob Gershman’s piece in a recent Wall Street Journal law blog.  A North Carolina high school principal, Travelers Rest High School’s Lou Lavely, answered that question in the negative, justifying his ban of the American flag from the school’s home football games with the excuse that students had

used the US flag, in conjunction with verbal taunts, to target Hispanic members of the Berea community in a manner that was both unsportsmanlike and also a misuse of our flag[.]

Lavely’s move also was consistent with an earlier 9th Circuit ruling on the other side of the country that

a California high school didn’t infringe on the constitutional rights of white students who were told they couldn’t wear shirts displaying the American flag in an effort, the school said, to defuse a potential fight with Mexican students

a ruling that the Supreme Court then declined to review.

In the face of public outrage over the flag ban, Lavely reversed his position and “allowed” our flag to be displayed after all.  However, that doesn’t cure the misunderstanding, both by Lavely and our courts, underlying such bans of our flag or of shirts with our flag imprinted on them or of any other such display.

The misunderstanding is in the cause of disruptions and how to deal with those disruptions.

Banning the American flag because its display might cause disruption is wrong-headed.  The American flag, or displaying our flag—free speech generally—doesn’t cause disruptions.  The disrupters cause disruptions, and they’re the ones who need to be dealt with.

Full stop.

Update: Clarified a sentence to say what I actually meant rather than the opposite.  Also clarified a later paragraph.

2 thoughts on “Free Speech and Disruptions

  1. To them, to us, the Confederate flag stands for resistance to control from afar, to meddling and instruction from people we detest.

    Indeed. But to a lot of others, it’s a symbol of exactly that control, meddling, and instruction; of slavery. That’s a valid beef, too.

    That’s not to say banning the Confederate flag is justified; I agree with you that it’s not. There’s that free speech thing. And it’s a symbol of our heritage, both in its aspect of something of which to be proud, and in its aspect of something of which to be ashamed, and so it’s something about which to learn, not something to be swept under history’s rug. But conflict over the Confederate flag still will be more likely than not, and more likely than over the American flag.

    And, such conflict is a part of the fabric of American life: disagreement, profound and minor, to be worked through or lived with.

    Eric Hines

  2. Do high school football fans have a constitutional right to display the American flag at games?

    Yes, to American Flags
    Yes to Confederate Flags too!

    I loved my deceased wife who was from the south. I loved who she was and the southern coulture was apart of it. From bribing my son to playing “Dixie” on the fiddle, to yes the Confederate flag. I think we need to Listen to Fred’s take on this one.

    ……..The furor over the Confederate flag( and I will add American Flag), think I, has little to do with the Confederate flag, which is a pretext, an uninvolved bystander. Rather it is about a seething anger in the United States that we must not mention. It is the anger of people who see everything they are and believe under attack by people they aren’t and do not want to be—their heritage, their religion, their values and way of life all mocked and even made criminal. …………

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