California City Sued For Requiring People To Stand During National Anthem

A Las Vegas man has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Sacramento, California, claiming that he is afraid he will be arrested if he does not stand for the national anthem during Sacramento Kings basketball games.

Jack Lipeles, a jewelry and car service businessman, filed the lawsuit last week, citing that the city's code makes refusing to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" a crime.

"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," the city's code states.

According to the lawsuit, Lipeles, 73, is "unwilling (and should not be required) to subject himself to criminal prosecution" for refusing to stand for the national anthem.

The suit cites Lipeles's "constitutionally (protected) right to freedom of speech" as the reasoning behind his refusal to stand.

Newsweek contacted Lipeles's lawyer, Joseph Adams, for further comment regarding the lawsuit but did not hear back in time for publication.

Adams told the Sacramento Bee that this was the first time he had ever seen a provision in city code requiring people to stand for the national anthem.

"Frankly, I found it fascinating myself," Adams told the Bee. "I've worked in the area of municipal law and it's the first time I've ever seen such an ordinance. It was surprising."

The lawsuit states that failure to comply with the city code is punishable as a misdemeanor with a fine of $500 to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

Newsweek contacted Sacramento city officials for additional comment. A press representative for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg referred to a Tuesday press release calling for the ordinance to be repealed.

"[Steinberg] called on his colleagues to join him in repealing the City ordinance that requires people to stand and salute the flag when the national anthem is played at ceremonies and 'at the close of concerts, theatres, etc.,'" according to the press release.

Pledge of Allegiance
A man wearing an America flag shirt stands for the Pledge of Allegiance. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Steinberg will put the proposed removal of the ordinance, which was adopted in the city in 1928, on the agenda for the next City Council meeting on July 28, the release stated.

The press release made no mention of Lipeles' lawsuit.

City officials have not yet been served with Lipeles' complaint, Tim Swanson, a spokesman for the city, told Newsweek in an email.

News of the lawsuit comes amid worldwide movements protesting police brutality and systemic racism, spurred after the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who died in Minneapolis police custody.

Floyd's death has reignited conversations about kneeling during the national anthem, an act of protest that occurred in 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during preseason and regular-season games.

Kaepernick had told reporters at the time that he was "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color."

Kaepernick's decision to protest "The Star-Spangled Banner" continues to be met with mixed reaction both in and out of the NFL, and is largely believed to be the reason Kaepernick has not played in the league since 2017.

Brooklyn Bridge Protester
A protester wearing a mask holds a sign that says,"Do You Understand Yet?" with a picture of Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco Giants, as dozens of protesters walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 4, 2020. Kaepernick is known for kneeling during the national anthem at football games as an act of protest. A Las Vegas man filed a federal lawsuit last week against the city of Sacramento, California, claiming that he is afraid he will be arrested if he does not stand for the national anthem during Sacramento Kings basketball games. Ira L. Black/Getty