Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama has asserted that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest against police brutality are breaking current law.
On Oct. 18, Moore stated during an interview that football players who protested during the anthem were violating the U.S. Code.
"Go look it up," Moore told Time. "It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That's the law."
On Sept. 22, President Donald Trump intensified a national debate over athletes protesting against police brutality when he called for football players who kneeled during the anthem to be fired, The Guardian reports.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: 'Get that son of a b***h off the field right now?'" Trump said during an Alabama rally. The president was campaigning on behalf of Moore's Republican primary opponent, incumbent GOP Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama.
"I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds," Moore continued. "One, it's respect for the law. If we don't respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it's respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice."
The GOP Senate nominee concluded: "If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?"
The U.S. Code states that standing during the anthem is proper etiquette, but does not describe a refusal to do so as a crime.
"It's not clear to me that 36 U.S.C. 301 was ever meant to be legally binding -- it says what people 'should' do rather than what they 'shall' or 'must' do," law professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA School of Law told CBS News.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the NFL movement of kneeling during the anthem. The football player, who is currently a free agent, stated that he was protesting against police brutality towards African Americans. Kaepernick also denied that his protest was aimed at U.S. military service members.
"I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm's way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee so I have the utmost respect for them," Kaepernick during a press conference in September 2016, according to USA Today.
Moore is the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In 2003, the judge was suspended from the court after he refused a federal order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from judicial property. In 2016, he was permanently banned from the court when he refused to uphold a U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, The Washington Post reports.
Alabama voters will decide between Moore and Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones on Dec. 12.
On Oct. 17, a Fox News Poll found that the Senate candidates were in a dead heat, with 42 percent of Alabama voters supporting Jones and an equal amount supporting Moore; 11 percent of respondents were undecided.