Canada Cheerfully Ends Flap Over Flag Reversal
Two days after their flag was displayed upside-down at Game 2 of the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays, thousands of Canadians loudly responded Tuesday night before Game 3.
They stood and sang the U.S. national anthem.
They sang it louder than it was sung in Atlanta last weekend, and when Jon Secada sang “land of the free,” they erupted in cheers.
“What you heard was forgiveness,” said Harriet Brown, a Toronto travel agent sitting behind home plate at the SkyDome, home of the Blue Jays. “You heard a country saying it understands that mistakes are part of life, and that it is time to move on to more important things.”
And so as quickly as it spread, the flag flap ended.
Before it subsided, the snafu sent ripples of indignation and contriteness across both sides of the border. On Tuesday, President Bush set his campaign themes aside to issue two apologies to the Canadian people, a New York Marine unit was granted special permission to parade the maple leaf banner as a sign of reconciliation and vendors scrambled to profit from the blunder by producing T-shirts and upside-down American flags.
But by the time the Blue Jays wrapped up a 3-2 victory Tuesday night to gain a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series, all seemed forgiven.
“Tonight I am so proud of my country,” said Anne Murray, who brought many to tears during a rousing version of the Canadian national anthem. “You heard a bunch of people just letting it go.”
Greg Brown, a Toronto dentist and one of 51,813 attending the historic first World Series game in Canada, put it another way.
“The Americans are still ignorant about us in some ways, but that doesn’t mean we hold it against them,” he said. “That’s not the kind of people we are.”
The Braves and Blue Jays can presumably play the rest of their series, the first involving a Canadian team, in peace.
Somewhere in Georgia, an embarrassed Marine sergeant from the Atlanta color guard unit probably watched Tuesday’s game with relief.
The Marine Corps would not release the name of the sergeant responsible for flipping the flag but said in a statement that the corps took “full responsibility” for Sunday’s mistake.
Tuesday, a Marine color guard unit from the Buffalo, N.Y., area was granted a special request to carry the Canadian flag during the pregame ceremony. The American flag was carried by a contingent from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Explaining Sunday’s error, Chief Warrant Officer Randy Gaddo, a spokesman for the 6th Marine Corps District in Atlanta, said that the seven Marines had only the standard-issue American and U.S. Marine Corps flags when they arrived at the ballpark and that the Canadian flag, which was to be provided by stadium officials, showed up with only moments to spare.
“They almost literally had to attach the flag as they were stepping off” onto the field with the music, Gaddo said. “They unfurled the flag first when they were on the march. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
Gaddo said there would be no reprimands or punishment. “They were doing the best they could,” he said.
Bush apologized for the incident, twice going out of his way during campaign appearances across the South to assure Canadians just “how badly I feel” about it.
Speaking “on behalf of all Americans,” Bush stressed during a television interview in Atlanta that no offense was intended to Canadians’ national pride. He also offered his heartfelt assurance that “we would do nothing to hurt the national flag of Canada.”
“They are our friends and our allies,” Bush said at a rally in Gainesville, Ga. “They have respect for our flag, and we have respect for theirs. They are a great people, and I hope they come in second in the World Series.”
But none of the apologies seemed to squelch the Canadians’ initial outrage, which was represented in hundreds of phone calls to Toronto radio stations and giant headlines in Toronto newspapers.
“There is a latent anti-Americanism in Canada, and this kind of thing brings it out,” said Christie Blatchford, news columnist for the Toronto Sun. “I think people were just really insulted.”
Steve Greenberg, major league baseball’s deputy commissioner, received a two-page fax with a Canadian flag and the word “Top” printed across the top.
Bob Wilkinson, a local printer, was so excited by the financial possibilities of the Marines’ mistake that he began printing upside-down flags even before Game 2 ended.
Times staff writers Melissa Healy, Norman Kempster and Douglas Jehl contributed to this story.
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