UPDATE: The original headline and body of this piece identified Daniel Argueta as a police officer, based on local reports from Utah. Argueta subsequently contacted Fusion to say that those initial reports were incorrect, and that he is in fact the brother of a police officer, not an officer himself. We have updated the piece to reflect this new information.
Officials in West Jordan, Utah are scrambling to explain how a Confederate flag wound up at a recent, city-sponsored event, prompting at least one family to stay seated when asked to rise for the national anthem.
"From a city's perspective, we're very disappointed," West Jordan spokesperson Kim Wells told the Desert News. "We didn't know that was a part of the show."
The incident occurred at a September 10 demolition derby, where attendees were asked to rise for the national anthem as a parade of vehicles bearing American flags circled the arena. However, at least one truck also hoisted the Confederate flag.
For Daniel Argueta, a crowdmember on hand that night with his wife and five children, that was unacceptable. "You kind of get caught in, yes, you want to stand, you support the US flag. You support the troops, you support police officers, but what is the Confederate flag doing there?" Argueta told local station KSTU. "For anybody that knows history and understands the negative impact of that flag and how it’s been used historically, it’s hard to stand up."
Rather than stand, the entire family remained seated during the national anthem procession. Argueta told KSTU:
It was humiliating, it was demeaning, because with all the controversy going on with the flag recently and people sitting during the anthem, we had all intended to stand, but we couldn’t. People probably looked around, probably wondering what we were doing.
Salt Lake City news outlet KSL.com reported that the city has contracted with the Stirrin' Dirt Racing company for several years for the annual demolition derby event.
According to company owner Jim Simko, the Confederate flag had been added to the truck by a "helper," who didn't notify anyone else. By the time the people noticed the offensive symbol, the truck had already entered the derby arena. The flag was eventually removed.
"I honestly think that this is blown way out of proportion," Simko explained to KSL.com. "It wasn't politically correct, I'm sure, for some people. But there's some people who look at that flag and say this is the land of the free."
"It shouldn't have happened," he added. "But I can't, unfortunately, watch what everybody does at every minute."
Since the incident, angry commenters peppered the company's Facebook page with complaints. One user claimed to have seen same truck flying a Confederate flag at an event earlier this summer, writing "At leads [sic] be straight up and call it what it is. It wasn't an accident."
According to KSL, Simko has offered free tickets to future shows to anyone in attendance who might have been offended by the Confederate flag. He also said the helper responsible for the incident would apologize.
The flap over the incident comes as protests against the Star Spangled Banner have become more and more common thanks, in part, to the actions of football star Colin Kaepernick. Over the weekend, at least 14 NFL players joined the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in his stance against "a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
For Argueta, though, his family's actions were less of a sign of solidarity with Kaepernick's message than a stance against an overtly racist symbol being placed on the same level as the stars and stripes.
"What's awkward is our kids understood what it meant," Argueta told the Desert News. "My son asked me, 'Dad, are we really going to stand with the Confederate flag there?' And as a father, it's a hard decision, especially in the spur of the moment, but the right thing to do was protest."