Trump Hawks American Flag Pins with His Name in Gold Splashed Across Them

Donald J. Trump’s campaign is billing it as a must-have fashion accessory for his supporters: an American flag lapel pin with the former president’s name scrawled in gold block letters across it — in all caps.

The pins were available starting Thursday for a $50 donation to the Trump campaign, the latest merchandising gambit from a candidate who has hawked a plethora of products over the decades, most recently Bibles and Trump sneakers.

A donation page for the pins declared that Mr. Trump’s political opponents had rendered him a convicted felon and asked supporters if he could count on their support.

His latest marketing pitch is further testing the norms of flag etiquette and drawing fresh scrutiny from critics.

It’s not only the flag flap surrounding Mr. Trump, whose birthday, June 14, happens to fall on Flag Day. Some election deniers have flown the flag upside-down, a historical symbol of distress, to protest Mr. Trump’s 2020 election defeat. An inverted flag appeared at the home of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., a display that he attributed to his wife.

Alterations to the flag are forbidden under the U.S. Flag Code, which was created in the 1920s by a group of patriotic and civic groups that included the American Legion and adopted as law by Congress in 1942.

“Basically, you’re not supposed to put anything on the flag,” Ted Kaye, secretary of the North American Vexillological Association, a group of flag scholars and enthusiasts, said on Saturday. “The flag is not a template for advertising or for political messaging.”

But there are caveats, according to Mr. Kaye, who said that the Flag Code has no enforcement provisions and does not address depictions of the American flag.

“That is, of course, where people get around the Flag Code,” he said.

Some of Mr. Trump’s critics, including President Biden’s campaign, say that he is co-opting the national symbol in ways that were never intended.

A U.S. flag lapel pin with former President Donald J. Trump’s name on offer by the Trump campaign.

“Donald Trump is a desperate convicted felon only out for himself, who does not respect the flag, our country, or the office he seeks,” James Singer, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in an email. “He’s using his campaign to sell out America, fill his own pockets, and put himself back in power.”

Steven Cheung, a campaign spokesman for Mr. Trump, in a statement hit back.

“Joe Biden and his campaign would rather see the flag burn, like during the disgusting campus riots, because they hate America and have no respect for its values,” Mr. Cheung said.

As Mr. Trump vaulted to the presidency in 2016, he made the flag a focal point in his branding, and his supporters ran with it. They superimposed Mr. Trump’s likeness and name on American flags which, along with banners displaying his Make American Great Again slogan, have become ubiquitous at his rallies.

After a 2020 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump hugged and kissed an American flag onstage while mouthing, “I love you, baby.” And flags, rows and rows of them, are a staple of his political stagecraft.

For three days beginning on Flag Day, the Biden campaign used a television ad in several battleground states to highlight how Mr. Trump’s supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were waving MAGA flags.

Another group of Mr. Trump’s followers tried to replace an American flag with a Trump flag at the Capitol that day while members of Congress were certifying Mr. Biden’s election as president.

In the period between the riot and Mr. Biden’s inauguration, an upside-down flag was aloft outside the Alexandria, Va., residence of Justice Alito. Justice Alito said that it had been hoisted by his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, during a dispute with a neighbor.

Judicial experts have said the inverted flag, which has become a protest symbol for some of Mr. Trump’s supporters, created an appearance of bias and raised questions about Justice Alito’s impartiality in cases related to the election and the Capitol riot.

Mr. Kaye, the flag expert, said that an inverted flag was first used on ships to show distress during the 1600s, most likely during the Anglo-Dutch wars. American ships adopted it, too, but the practice waned with the invention of radios, he said.

He noted that the Flag Code spells out how the American flag should be displayed: “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

Still, the Flag Code does not address using the flag as a “political statement,” according to Mr. Kaye, who said it was turned upside-down by Vietnam War protesters during the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr. Kaye said that one of his neighbors in Portland, Ore., recently asked him whether she might be mistaken as a Trump supporter by displaying an American flag, right side up, at her home.

“I said, ‘As long as you’ve got your Biden lawn signs out, at the same time, people will not misinterpret what you mean by flying the American flag,’” he said.