Fact Check

SHAMEFUL: Alabama BBQ Contest Officials Forced Pitmasters to Remove U.S. Flags

Rumor: Organizers of a barbecue event in Alabama forced participants to remove American flags from display.

Published March 5, 2015


Claim:   Organizers of a barbecue event in Alabama forced participants to remove American flags from display.


TRUE: Participants at a barbecue event in Daphne, Alabama, were temporarily told to remove all signs (including American flags) due to local codes.
FALSE: American flags alone were the target of code enforcement efforts, and they were removed because they offended atheists.

Example:   [Collected via Internet and Facebook, March 2015]

It's illegal to fly the U.S. flag in Daphne, AL?

I just read on Facebook where a guy is doing a BBQ competition there and they were told to take down their american flag because it was against a city ordinance.

Daphne, AL..the most Un-American city!! Cooking in a pro BBQ contest and anyone flying the American Flag had to take it down because of a city ordinance!! Really! Shame on you Daphne, AL. Share this photo and pass the word. Daphne should be embarrassed!

They don't want to offend all the atheists that live there. I think we should ask not to have another Sam's event there. I read their sign regulations the teams will be lucky if they are not asked to cover their signage.


Origins:   On 27 February 2015, Facebook user Jeff "YokeUp" Petkevicius posted a status update to Facebook regarding a scenario that unfolded at the 2015 Sam's Club National BBQ Tour in Daphne, Alabama. (Several other towns and cities hosted the tour on separate dates.)

The minor incident (which by all accounts involved a temporary halt to the display of signage at a small barbecue event) was catapulted into the political blogosphere on 3 March 2015 when it caught the attention of Fox News columnist Todd Starnes. Starnes wrote an editorial lambasting the event's organizers for their un-American stance and lack of proffered apology:

It turns out the order to remove the flags came from the tour director of the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

"As a measure of precaution, we asked everyone to take down any kind of signs or any kind of flags that were being displayed," spokesman Mike McCloud told me. "It turned out that some of those happened to be American flags."

McCloud said after they further investigated the local ordinance — they eventually told the pitmasters they could fly their flags. So they investigated a local ordinance even though the city maintains there is no local ordinance banning the flying of American flags?

And why would the Kansas City Barbecue Society blame the city of Daphne — when in fact the city of Daphne did nothing wrong? It seems to me like they owe the mayor and the pitmasters an apology.

"I don't know an apology is in order," McCloud told me. "We've explained to the barbecue teams what happened. The city did not approach our event and ask us to do anything. We were cautious in our suggestion to people to be aware of issues and once we told people that we understood it better — that it was okay to post their American flags."

As politically correct as our nation has become, I never thought I would see the day when American flags would be banned from a barbecue competition. That's something you would expect to happen at a vegetarian cook-off.

It didn't appear that anyone complaining about the incident considered alternative explanations (aside from dislike of the U.S. flag), such as the possibility that organizers of an event predicated upon burning things at high temperatures could conceivably have enforced such a rule simply to limit or eliminate flammable objects dangling over ember-spitting pits or grills. In any case, the Kansas City Barbecue Society subsequently published a lengthy and contrite status update on 3 March 2015 confirming that the flag ban was in part caused by confusion and an overabundance of caution about whether flags were considered "signs" under local law, and that the temporary removal of flags did not encompass the duration of the event:


"So that truth, justice, excellence in Barbeque and the American Way of LIfe may be strengthened and preserved forever....."

Those are the fundamental words in our BBQ oath at KCBS, a nonprofit organization that is fueled by the passion of tens of thousands of members, judges, teams, volunteers, contest organizers and sponsors throughout America — and the world.

So yes, it saddens us that last weekend in Daphne, Alabama, our love of BBQ and commitment to sanctioning top-notch competitions for the past 29 years got mired up in some contest confusion, and a temporary decision that led to a quick fire of controversy.

So in the famous words of the great American Paul Harvey, here's the "rest of the story."

As one of our most prominent BBQ tours rolled into Daphne, Alabama on February 27th, we were reviewing local rules and codes as usual. And to be quite frank, we simply found the codes on signage a little confusing and in certain parts, restricting. (But remember, we are BBQ'ers, not attorneys). At one point, we thought flags were considered signs. During that 7-hour period, our local tournament director decided that all signs and flags should come down while we assessed

what the most courteous and legal thing to do would be. And yes, due to our local director being extremely cautious, American flags were part of our assessment and temporary stay.

In hindsight, we can honestly say that we BLEW the original call. But thankfully, we CORRECTED it within 7 hours. Nothing made us more proud than telling our BBQ teams to hoist the Red White & Blue as they wished, and that if there was something inappropriate in doing so, we would take the heat.

Well, we did take that heat. And still are. And so does Daphne, as some very proud Americans (understandably so) took to social media and exercised their First Amendment rights about how stupid it is to ban an American flag (we totally agree).

Fortunately, on Saturday when the competition occurred, any BBQ fan, team or judge who wanted to fly an American flag had the full rights and support of KCBS to do so.

And we've since learned, after multiple talks with Mayor Dane Haygood of Daphne, Ala., on Monday, March 2nd, that the City of Daphne fully supports that right as well. So in our BBQ world, and in the City of Daphne, Alabama, let there be no mistake. Old Glory will fly proudly and prominently whenever a great American wants to display the Stars & Stripes.

From all of us at KCBS, a family that surrounds the globe, we would like to simply say to the fine folks of Daphne that we apologize for ANY dishonor that our temporary decision and confusion on the sign ordinance caused during our competition. We assure each and every one of you that it will never happen again, in Daphne, nor ANY city in America. If it does, it will only be because someone pries the flagpole from our BBQ-stained hands.

So while American flags were temporarily banned at a small barbecue event in Daphne, Alabama, the event's organizers believed a local code prohibited signage (for unstated reasons, possibly relating to safety). The event's participants were eventually allowed to display flags, and the organizers of the event apologized profusely for any offense caused.

Last updated:   5 March 2015


    Starnes, Todd.   "Stop the Insanity: BBQ Pitmasters Told to Take Down American Flags"

    Fox News.   3 March 2015.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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