Roy Moore, the Republican candidate to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in the U.S. Senate, incorrectly said Wednesday that football players who take a knee during the national anthem are breaking the law.
“It’s against the law, you know that?” Moore told Time in an interview. “It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law.”
Moore was referring, Time reported, to a section of the U.S. code that says those listening to the national anthem when the flag is displayed “should” stand at attention with their hands on their hearts.
“Should” falls far short of making standing during the anthem a legal requirement. Relatedly, the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students could not be punished for failing to stand for the pledge of allegiance in public schools.
According to Time, Moore also said that standing for the anthem was a matter of “the rule of law,” and that “[i]f they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law.”
“If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?” he asked.
Moore was suspended twice from the Alabama Supreme Court for disobeying the order of a federal judge: First, for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments he had installed in the courthouse, and then, years later, for instructing probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those couples had a right to marry nation-wide.
Starting with Colin Kaepernick in 2016, several NFL players have and continue to kneel during the national anthem as part of a protest against racism and police brutality.
President Trump called the players “sons of bitches” at a rally in Alabama in September, and has since repeated several times that the protests disrespect members of the military.
Moore told Time separately: “I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds,” adding that: “One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up.”