The committee overseeing American Legion baseball in Minnesota has adopted a no-tolerance policy when it comes to athletes' behavior during the national anthem before games: Anything less than "proper respect" will mean outright banishment.
During its annual fall meeting last month in North St. Paul, the state's legion baseball committee took a cue from higher-ups and embraced the resolution passed earlier by the legion's National Executive Committee, State Director Mike Perry said Thursday.
When that national resolution was passed, the American Legion noted in a statement posted on its website that the edict "comes in light of recent actions by professional athletes, and now that of several youth sports teams, who are kneeling during the national anthem out of protest."
That movement gained steam after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner." He has explained that he's expressing his concern about how blacks were being treated in the United States by law enforcement.
The national resolution makes two references to "proper respect" and declared that "any participant [who] cannot or will not live up to this expectation, the individual will be removed from the program and not be allowed further participation."
There is no definition of "proper respect" in the resolution, but Perry explained that it means that high-school age athletes must be "standing, facing the flag, cap off."
As for what is not allowed, Perry said, "kneeling down, back to the flag, stuff like that."
Perry said notifications of the national anthem requirements passed unanimously among the state's 14 committee members and were sent to all 325 teams in Minnesota, where the participation level is as high as anywhere in the country during the summertime competition.
The American Legion, as a military veterans support group, "is teaching youth in any program, including baseball, about American values and what the legion stands for."
Gail Kalata, who heads the American Legion district that covers Ramsey County strongly endorsed the no-tolerance policy because of the Legion's mission "helping to instill in youth proper respect for our country and those things that represent our country."