National Anthem Etiquette

What to Do When They’re Playing Your (Country’s) Song!

The 2016 Rio Olympics are here! Years of early morning workouts and late night practices finally pay off for the athletes who will represent the United States at the games. And some American fans will even travel to Rio to support the team. But what happens after the big win, when they raise the flag and begin to play the Star Spangled Banner? Whether you’re cheering at the Olympics or attending a hometown event, these tips from USAGov, based on the U.S. Flag Code (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) will help you know what to do anywhere the national anthem is played:

  • At the venue- all present, except those in military uniforms, should stand facing the flag with their right hand over their heart out of respect. Follow the lead of those at the podium or onstage and share the moment together as Americans.
  • If there’s no flag- if for some reason there’s no flag in the ceremony, face toward the music and act as if a flag were there.
  • Hats- if you’re not in a military uniform and are wearing a hat, remove it with your right hand and hold it over your left shoulder, while your hand is over your heart.
  • Military personnel- members in uniform should render the military salute at the beginning of the anthem and retain the position throughout.

Test your knowledge of national anthem etiquette with USAGov’s 2016 Olympic Quiz. And for updates from the government about travel, money issues, and programs that can help you and your family, subscribe to USAGov’s email list.

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