If you have been married for any length of time, you know there comes a point when you and your spouse have an argument. You disagree over an issue, perception, event, or slight. As the argument continues, you begin to move away from the original topic and start piling on other matters. Pretty soon, you look at each other and wonder, what were we arguing about to begin with?
The NFL National Anthem protest feels like one of those arguments, especially now that the White House has weighed in on the matter.
Long ago in ancient times, or so it feels even though it was only last season, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers chose to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem as a way of protesting inequality between the races. (That is perhaps an overly simplified summary of a very complex issue.) The conversation then shifted to whether kneeling was disrespectful to the flag and to the military. Then it moved to solidarity among teammates. A report came out last week that Colin Kaepernick has supposedly reversed course and said he will stand during the anthem if he can get his job back. Then Vice President Pence left yesterday’s Colts-49ers game because several 49ers knelt during the anthem. A 49ers official said it was a P.R. stunt and at least one sportswriter was bothered because it upstaged the Colts retiring Peyton Manning’s jersey. Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys said anyone who kneels will no long play for the Cowboys. People are up in arms over the loss of free speech.
It appears the argument subtly shifted from inequality or injustice to free speech and the right to protest. The original issue has been lost amidst the rhetoric. Since the various sides cannot agree on what they are arguing about, no wonder we can’t solve the problem.
What were we arguing about?