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Hat etiquette in times of anthem disrespect

August 18, 2018

It never occurred to me that leaving my baseball cap on during “The Star-Spangled Banner” might make me appear disrespectful, unpatriotic or even like someone making a political statement meant to stir a bubbling pot.

Apparently, this slice of etiquette was something boys of my generation were taught when we girls were off learning to walk while balancing a book on our heads. It did, however, occur to me that removing my cap could make me appear goofy.

I have a photo taken when I was around 12, when I played second base for the St. Mary Magdalen Indians. Take off your hat, my camera-wielding dad said, because I can’t see your face. I took it off and — SNAP! — now there is an image of me with my head looking like Devil’s Tower. Since then, I decline with little hesitation when the family photographers ask me to lose the lid.

Baseball caps are an excellent way to protect one’s face and eyes while playing or watching a game but are also a great way to hide a nonathletic bad hair day. Caps provide protection from the elements while hiding a receding hairline or a balding pate. No time for a haircut? No problem; just fold it up and put it in a hat.

But caps are hats, and there have always been rules for hats, especially when they were a more common part of the wardrobe. Women were usually exempt from such rules, especially if the hats were big-brimmed concoctions with flowers and feathers that were meant to be fashion forward, but when caps are involved, they should follow the same rules as men. And men are expected to remove the hats while indoors. They are also expected to remove them when being introduced to someone and as a sign of respect in a place of worship, when the flag is going past and when the national anthem is being played.

That’s why some people are taking issue with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for leaving his cap on while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was playing during a team practice last month in Oxnard, Calif., even though he’s been very vocal in the NFL debate regarding players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. Fair enough; if purposely kneeling in protest of social injustice crosses a line, so does declining to do something as routine as taking off one’s cap.

Hat head notwithstanding.

The National Football League reportedly asked Jones to stop talking about the anthem issue, so he’s not talking about this hat thing although a simple “Oops” would have answered the question. Doing so might appear that he’s come up with a way to say what he wants to say despite what he’s been asked to keep to himself. Or maybe he just forgot he had it on. Then again, images of the cap-wearing incident show Jones’ son pointing to the cap, indicating that he might want to remove it. The cap stayed on, so there’s that.

Which brings up some questions: How does this apply to the rest of us who are not team owners or on the team payroll?

Will cap disrespect become a thing now, and will cap disrespect be a bigger humiliation than hathead shame?

Or, out of respect for the liberty the flag represents, should we give people the freedom to take a few steps away from the drama of our long workweeks and divisive politics long enough so we can all just watch a game in peace?

mariaanglinwrites@gmail.com

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