City of Sacramento Sued Over Law Making It Illegal to Not Stand for the National Anthem

Colin Kaepernick (c.) kneels during the national anthem

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO – In what could be one of the most unusual lawsuits of its kind – but very relevant as poignant police brutality protests continue in Sacramento and around the U.S. – a man is suing the city of Sacramento because he could be jailed for not standing for “The Star Spangled Banner.”

That’s right. There’s a law against not standing for the National Anthem in the sleepy capital city.

Ex-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and a few other NFL ballplayers took a knee in 2016 protesting the treatment of Black residents by police. And while Kaepernick lost his job and was shunned by other teams because of his actions, he was never threatened with jail.

However, in Sacramento, you can be jailed for taking a knee.

Las Vegans jewelry businessowner Jack Lipeles said he filed the federal lawsuit because the city law would prevent him from attending Sacramento Kings NBA games, whenever that may be.

The Sacramento City Code provides that: “[t]he song, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ is recognized as the national anthem of the United States. When this music is played on a proper occasion during ceremonials, at the close of concerts, theatres, etc., all present shall stand at attention, facing the flag, or, if no flag is displayed, facing the music, and shall render the salute to the flag.”

And, the lawsuit quotes city law that could get someone in very, very serious trouble if they don’t follow that city code.

“Section 1.04.080 is not merely aspirational; it imposes a mandatory requirement. Sacramento City Code § 1.04.021(F) (specifying that ‘may’ is permissive and ‘shall’ is mandatory). Not complying with Section 1.04.080’s requirements constitutes a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of between five hundred dollars ($500) and one thousand dollars ($1,000), imprisonment in the county jail for up, to six (6) months, or by both fine and imprisonment,” according to the pleading submitted by Joseph Adams, a Southern California lawyer.

The suit argues that the code is “unconstitutional on its face,” and that “Plaintiff ardently believes it is improper and unlawful for Sacramento to mandate that people stand (or perform or refrain from any other act) in response to the Anthem, he feels duty-bound to not obey.”

Lipeles said that if he obeys the city of Sacramento’s law, it “would create the false impression” that he “approves of Sacramento mandating how people respond to the Anthem,” and that he “disapproves of people who do not respond in the mandated manner (e.g., people who kneel during the Anthem as a form of protest against racial injustice)” and finally that he “approves of Sacramento criminalizing the peaceful act of kneeling during the Anthem to protest racial injustice.”

The plaintiff’s “only other option,” the pleading argues, if he should attend a Kings game, is to “not stand for the Anthem and subject himself to criminal liability. Plaintiff is unwilling (and should not be required) to subject himself to criminal prosecution in order to preserve his constitutionally protect right to freedom of speech. Consequently, it is impossible for Plaintiff to attend Kings game(s) but not stand for the Anthem.”

The legal pleading is asking for a Temporary Restraining Order or Permanent Injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the anthem code, because it deprives the “Plaintiff of his rights under the United States Constitution, including, but not limited to, his right to freedom of speech secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

City of Sacramento officials had no comment.

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About The Author

Veteran news reporter and editor, including stints at the Sacramento Bee, Woodland Democrat, and Vietnam war correspondent and wire service bureau chief at the State Capitol.

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  1. Alan Miller

    That’s right. There’s a law against not standing for the National Anthem in the sleepy capital city.

    That’s a stupid law.

    To quote the great Johnny Cash:  “I thank God for all the freedoms we’ve got in this county. I cherish them. Even the rights to burn the flag, you know, I’m proud of those rights. But I’ll tell you what, we’ve also got a right to bear arms, and if you burn my flag, I’ll shoot you. But I’ll shoot you with a lot of love like a good American.”

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