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Why Dew you mistreat the National Anthem?

Is the National Anthem up for grabs in a commercial?

Last week a reader wrote to The Daily Flag to ask if it was permissible to use the National Anthem, or even part of the song, in a commercial advertisement. He was unhappy because The Pentagon Channel on television was using a portion of the anthem in what is described as a “tribute break.”

I don’t get the Pentagon Channel. I went to the Pentagon Channel’s website, but I couldn’t find video of their tribute breaks, so as to judge for myself how it looks and comes across to the viewer.

What does the U.S. Code have to say about the National Anthem?

National Anthem
Sec. 301. National anthem

1. Designation.–The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.
2. Conduct During Playing.–During a rendition of the national anthem–
1. when the flag is displayed–
1. all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;
2. men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
3. individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and
2. when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

(Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263.)

I don’t think you can extrapolate from silence (“it doesn’t say you can’t”) and justify using the National Anthem in a commercial, even if you are The Pentagon Channel, no matter how well-intended. The American lexicon of patriotic and martial music overflows with songs, marches, and hymns to choose from without using the National Anthem.

The day after I responded to the man’s question, I saw a Mountain Dew commercial on TV … the one with a tug-of-war theme and the very loud playing of the National Anthem—the Jimi Hendrix version. Mountain Dew commercials have always been edgy, but does this one cross the line? It’s clever, well-produced, and utterly egregious.

I wrote to Mountain Dew, and asked for them to remove this particular commercial from their television line-up because I thought it was an gross violation of the U.S. Code regarding the National Anthem. Does Pepsi care that this commercial makes me wince? I have not received a reply, but it has only been a few days.

So when is it permissible to use the National Anthem in a way other than how it is cited in the U.S. Code? Who gets to decide?

What if a Hollywood big shot wants to make a movie about baseball? At some point in the movie, there could be a scene with the players and the people in the bleachers saluting the flag, and standing up to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Is that ok, because if it’s done with respect? What if the scene shows some guy in the stands belching out the tune?

We decide.
Make your opinion known to businesses when they cross the boundary of respect and good taste. Write, email, telephone (there’s always an 800 number), and make your opinion known at the cash register.

UPDATE: 6-17-08 At 2:00 P.M., I received an email from a woman in Consumer Relations at Pepsi saying,

Thank you for taking the time to email us at Pepsi about our recent advertising. We appreciate your comments and, I assure you, we attach a great deal of importance to the views of our consumers.

For that reason, we sincerely regret that our recent commercial offended or upset you. That was certainly not our intention.

It’s extremely important to us at Pepsi that our advertising serves to enhance the positive image that’s helped place our brands among the world’s most popular consumer products. If we should miss the mark, we need to know about it, which is why I intend to pass along your comments to our ad team. I want them to be aware of your opinion as they discuss future advertising initiatives.

Thanks again for taking the time to email us and for sharing your constructive comments.

This is good start, and I appreciate their prompt response. DH

9 thoughts on “Why Dew you mistreat the National Anthem?

  1. I am a 74-year old veteran of the Korean WAR. During my service, I had the privilege of saving the life of my high school class President and was, myself saved by a fellow enlisted man (Thanks again, Dale).

    When our 150-man group of survivors returned home for discharge, we had the great honor of saluting a huge, garrison-sized flag for the first time in almost two years. Many of us wept openly.

    That jackass commercial for “Mountain Dap” (as in bird dap) with the sick, screaming guitars almost turned my stomach.

    As a lad growing up on a farm, we would have referred to the entire Pepsi outfit as a “bunch of pukes.” Today though, we would not accept a free ride to your headquarters building in order to break all the windows with rocks.

  2. Mr Cloward, thank you for your service to our country, and my thanks to Dale, too.
    I share your dismay over the commercial. I have heard from other readers (I accidentally deleted their comments), and they feel the same as you do. I hope you will take the time to contact the Mountain Dew division at PepsiCo., and tell them how you feel.

    Thank you for taking the time to write.

  3. I am a veteran (also). Recently I attended my son’s high school football game. His team was playing “away” that weekend (they were the visiting team). The home team began playing the anthem before my son’s team had completely entered the stadium. When the National Anthem had been played the visiting team was still not fully inside the stadium. I thought this was a poor demonstration of sportsmanship, but I am struggling to find any legal code or guidance that I can reference to explain this properly to the offending body (the home team). Does anyone know where I can find more information on the correct protocol for playing the anthem at high school sporting events?

  4. Hi Chris.
    What an unfortunately event. I suspect that whoever cued the band for the National Anthem thought both teams were on the field. I always thought the guest team took the field first, but maybe not. You might telephone the athletic director at the school in question to ask what happen. Chances are, if you noticed this error, then a LOT of other people did too.

    Perhaps the UIL bylaws have rules regarding the National Anthem, but it sounds like it was just a stupid mistake.

  5. Dear Sir/Ma’am:

    I read the United States Protocol above and I couldn’t find what I was looking for- is the United States Anthem strictly enforced? I mean, does a singer have a right to sing it according to how he/she wants it to sang?

    I ask this question because a few years back, I caught a news segment where some sectors in the United States questioned how the national anthem is sung? So is it open for intrepretation or not? If not, what are the penalties of the singer?

    Thanks

  6. Dear Sir/Ma’am:

    I read the United States Protocol above and I couldn’t find what I was looking for- is the United States Anthem strictly enforced? I mean, does a singer have a right to sing it according to how he/she wants it to sang?I ask this question because a few years back, I caught a news segment where some sectors in the United States questioned how the national anthem is sung? So is it open for intrepretation or not? If not, what are the penalties of the singer?

    1. Hi John,

      There is no enforcement and no penalty for not singing or performing the National Anthem the way it is written (as shown in the U.S. Code).

      While I personally prefer the National Anthem to be rendered “as written” (so I can sing along with it, even if under my breath), it has been open to interpretation for a long time. However, the performer’s decision to depart from the “as written” occasionally has very unfortunate consequences.

      Recall what happened in October 1968, when Jose Feliciano was invited to perform The Star-Spangled Banner at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, during Game 5 pregame ceremonies of the World Series. His solo, heart-felt performance departed from the norm, and was highly controversial; the negative back-lash left Feliciano stunned and hurt—and severely damaged his career. You can search Feliciano’s performance on YouTube and you will be surprised because it is so mild; you’ll wonder why people got so upset about it. Jimi Hendrix’s performance at Woodstock the following summer was another blow to Star-Spangled Banner purists.

      Since then, it seems the National Anthem has been open to interpretation. If you search for “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “The National Anthem” on YouTube, you will find hundreds of “performances.” Some performances are all about the song, and some are all about the performer.

      It is my observation that the audiences are much more respectful to the flag (which is the point) and to the National Anthem, when the performer(s) sing it as closely as possible to “as written.” When the performance is all about the singer(s) the audience is not respectful to flag and do not stand at attention and salute the flag, but instead stamp their feet and clap or cheer, and then the meaning of the words is lost.

      It is my fondest hope that someday an American singer of world-wide fame will come onto the field at the Super Bowl, and say to the crowd assembled there, “Ladies and Gentleman, will you stand with me, and join in singing the National Anthem,” and then lead everyone in singing the song in unison. Now that would be a performance.

  7. I’m glad that I found your site, there is a car dealership here that uses the National Anthem in it’s commercials to sell cars, every time It comes on I cringe, it sickens me to think that people today would play on peoples patriotism to try and sell things…What’s wrong with people today?

    1. Hello Steven. Thank you for writing.
      I think much of it is ignorance, and sometimes the most patriotic people commit the most egregious errors. I encourage you to contact the owner of the car dealership, and patiently, diplomatically explain that our National Anthem is not an advertising jingle, and that by using it as such, the intended desire is likely reversed: that those listening to the advertisement will be shocked, appalled, disappointed, and unlikely in the extreme—to buy a car there.

      I am including the entire National Anthem Code if you want to print it out and share it with the car dealership owner. It doesn’t specifically say you can’t use the Anthem as an advertising jingle, but since it carefully details the correct protocol and etiquette for the Anthem, the proper behavior is rather obvious.

      Good luck and best wishes,
      Deborah Hendrick

      36 U.S.C.
      United States Code, 2011 Edition
      Title 36 – PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS
      Subtitle I – Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies
      Part A – Observances and Ceremonies
      CHAPTER 3 – NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM1 MARCH, AND TREE
      Sec. 301 – National anthem
      From the U.S. Government Printing Office, http://www.gpo.gov

      §301. National anthem

      (a) Designation.—The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

      (b) Conduct During Playing.—During a rendition of the national anthem—

      (1) when the flag is displayed—

      (A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;

      (B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and

      (C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

      (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

      (Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263; Pub. L. 110–417, [div. A], title V, §595, Oct. 14, 2008, 122 Stat. 4475.)
      Historical and Revision Notes Revised

      Section
      Source (U.S. Code) Source (Statutes at Large)
      301(a) 36:170. Mar. 3, 1931, ch. 436, 46 Stat. 1508.
      301(b) 36:171. June 22, 1942, ch. 435, §6, 56 Stat. 380; Dec. 22, 1942, ch. 806, §6, 56 Stat. 1077; July 7, 1976, Pub. L. 94–344, §1(18), 90 Stat. 812.
      Amendments

      2008—Subsec. (b)(1)(A) to (C). Pub. L. 110–417 added subpars. (A) to (C) and struck out former subpars. (A) to (C) which read as follows:

      “(A) all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;

      “(B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and

      “(C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and”.

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