While on a walk with his wife, Keith Eddins noticed the flags outside of Hayward Field were tattered. That was days after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, whose flag was especially faded, says Eddins, a former American diplomat and adjunct professor at the University of Oregon.
“I made a point to look for the Ukrainian flag — the flag is yellow and blue — when you looked up you could barely tell there was a color difference,” he says. The golden yellow of the flag represents fields of wheat while the blue signifies the sky, mountains and streams of Ukraine.
The UO tells Eugene Weekly that it’s behind on replacing the 156 flags outside of Hayward Field due to supply chain issues. But the condition of the Ukrainian flag — and flags of the other countries represented at the Hayward Field’s plaza near 18th and Agate — is a matter of respect, Eddins says. He reported the condition of the flag to UO administration, and he was pleasantly surprised to see a replacement flag raised.
“It struck me with what’s happening in Ukraine that we should have a decent flag up as a way to show respect for the country that is going through an invasion,” he says. He says he went home after noticing the condition of the flag and wrote an email to the office of UO President Michael Schill. He says they ignored his request for the UO to take down the Russian and Belarusian flags.
UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis says the flags at Hayward Field represent the 156 nations that were in senior-level competition at the Historic Hayward Field before it was replaced in 2018. “Staff who manage Hayward Field and the upkeep of the flags have a process for maintaining and replacing the flags. Supply chain issues caused delays in acquiring replacement flags that were ordered several months ago. Fortunately, most of the flags arrived in late February and have been installed,” she says.
Eddins teaches a class called Diplomat’s Role in Conflict in the UO’s undergraduate law program and is a former diplomat who served in Moscow and at NATO. He spoke at a March 7 panel on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and said that no matter how you look at it, “it’s an unjust war.” Some wars can be debated whether it was just, he adds, but this war doesn’t fit any justification and is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “weak attempt” to restore the boundaries of an imperialist Soviet or Tsarist Russia.
Despite Russia’s intentions for the invasion, Eddins says war or no war, every flag deserves to fly in good condition. “Before the war and after the war, it’s a question of respect,” Eddins says. “None of them should be allowed to look like they did a month ago.”