Faced with push back from veterans over the seasonal custom of displaying the New England Patriots flag beneath the American flag on the town Common, selectmen this week warmed to a banner alternative.
As outlined Tuesday night by Town Manager William Keegan, that alternative would involve displaying colorful banners championing both the Patriots and Foxboro High athletic teams on the light poles which ring the Common rotary.
Already outfitted with brackets allowing banners to be displayed, the poles have typically been used to promote Founders Day and other community events.
The suggestion, which Keegan credited to tree & park department chief David LaLiberte, could help avert an awkward situation involving some local veterans who have objected to flying both the Patriots and American flags on the Common flagpole.
Two weeks ago, Ronald Rogers revived those objections, asking selectmen to discontinue the practice.
“We feel strongly that the town has shown disrespect to the American flag, our veterans, first responders and anyone that honors the values this great country stands for,” Rogers said at the time.
Rogers acknowledged that not all local veterans agreed. And on Tuesday night, Vietnam veteran Robert Murphy of Comey Avenue told selectmen he thought the Patriots flag should be displayed on the flagpole.
Serving up some background for board members, Keegan said the Patriots flag was first displayed on the Common in 2017, and has since been flown intermittently during the NFL season – not year-round. He stressed that local officials had initiated the practice and had never been approached by the Kraft Group.
“Under no circumstances were we doing anything to take away from the flag’s significance,” Keegan said.
On Tuesday night veterans’ services agent Ally Rodriguez and her predecessor, Assistant Town Manager Michael Johns, both said the practice – while jarring to some – is an acceptable display.
“I don’t have a position on this – I just want to present the facts,” Johns said. “And just to be clear, it’s not violating the U.S. flag code.”
“The flag code is for guidance,” Rodriguez added. “It’s not law.”
Selectman David Feldman, who was serving as chairman when the flag proposal was green-lighted, agreed that no disrespect was intended – either to veterans or the flag.
“The intent was to show Patriot Pride in the Town of Foxboro, especially on game days when people drive through town,” Feldman said. “I think we want people to know that Foxboro is home of the six-time Super Bowl champions.”
On hand Tuesday night, Rogers welcomed Keegan’s suggestion as a banner idea, and suggested that banners would help “dress up” the town center.
“The more we can celebrate [Robert] Kraft the more he’ll like us,” Rogers observed. “He should be celebrated for what he has done for this town.”
Without taking a formal vote on the matter, board members agreed with current Chairman Mark Elfman to aggressively explore the banner alternative, which he suggested would be “even more impressive” than flying the Patriots pennant on the flagpole.
Keegan pledged to pursue the matter with the Patriots organization before the 2019 season.
“I think a lot of people have liked that idea,” he said. “It’s certainly something worth pursuing.”