Some war veterans in the Green Bay area were offended Sunday when the Packers flew the U.S. flag at half-staff at Lambeau Field in honor of the late Reggie White, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported Tuesday.
Ron Sager of Appleton, founder of the Fox Valley Vietnam Veterans Association, said the honor is reserved for those who have served or made a sacrifice for their country.
"It does cheapen the reason" for flying the flag at half-staff, Sager told the paper. "Obviously (Packers president] Bob Harlan was thinking that this is something he could use to pay tribute to White, but unfortunately he is not familiar with the etiquette."
"As much as I appreciated Reggie White, not only for his football playing but his character off the field, I don't believe the U.S. flag should be flown at [half-staff] for anyone unless it is authorized by our government. It sort of denigrates the service of those in Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost their lives."
According to the U.S. Flag Code, which spells out the rules of flag etiquette, the American flag can be flown at half-staff only upon a directive of either the president or governor and on Memorial Day. The code also specifies who qualifies for the honor. Football players are not on the list.
Harlan told the paper he has ordered the flag lowered for others without anyone raising any objections.
"We have done this through the years and we are going to continue to do it," Harlan said Monday. "I would hear from more fans who are upset with me if I didn't do it than if I did. Is that what you are getting at, that we are not obeying the flag codes? Well, we are going to do it."
However, Harlan said he has ordered the flag lowered for others associated with the Packers organization without objections. He did acknowledge, though, that the flags aren't lowered when a local soldier is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
But Harlan told PackerNews.com that the Packers have done their part to honor local veterans.
"We honored the veterans," Harlan told the Web site. "[In the season opener against Seattle] we had all the families here from Wisconsin who lost a loved one in the war and we honored them, so if you want to make a big deal over this, go ahead and do it."
A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ordained
minister who was known as the "Minister of Defense," White played
15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. He retired
after the 2000 season as the NFL's career sacks leader with 198.
The mark was later surpassed by Bruce Smith.
White signed as a free agent with Green Bay in 1993 for $17
million over four years. His signing, along Green Bay's trade for quarterback Brett Favre,
helped make the Packers NFL champions again.
The Packers are exploring other ways to honor White at their wild-card
playoff game this weekend. Next year, they plan to make him the fifth
Packers player to have his jersey retired, joining Don Hutson, Tony Canadeo, Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.