Controversial Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said Wednesday that professional athletes who protest during the national anthem are breaking the law.

"It's against the law, you know that?" Moore told Time, referring to a section under U.S. Code Title 36. "It was an act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That's the law."

The code, however, only suggests etiquette during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and does not prescribe legal penalties for those who flout the relevant provisions.

Moore's comments follow a string of athlete demonstrations during the anthem over racial and social injustice, many of which were triggered by President Trump calling NFL players who refuse to stand or link arms "sons of bitches" at a campaign rally for Moore in September.

"I back the president in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds," Moore said. "One, it's respect for the law. If we don't respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it's respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I'm surprised that no one brought this up."

He added that decorum during the anthem was important under the "rule of law."

"If they didn't have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law," he said. "If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?"

Moore, an anti-establishment figure in the race against Democratic candidate Doug Jones for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat, was famously stood down as chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court in 2003 after he defied a federal court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments erected at the Alabama Judicial Building. The Alabama special election is set for Dec. 12.