The Search for Common Ground on the Gridiron

With the official kickoff to a brand new NFL season just a couple of weeks away, we appear still mired in the discussion on the national anthem. Same old controversy, different day? Perhaps. Even with each new development – most recently ESPN’s decision not to broadcast the anthem during its live Monday Night Football telecasts – there are the inevitable agreements and disagreements. They are unavoidable.

But isn’t that what America is about? Its citizenry putting forth opinions based on a myriad of dynamics and personal experiences? In this country we are passionate but also compassionate. Yet, at times today we can’t seem to get out of our own way. You say “tomawto” I say “tomato.” I may say and think I’m right on an issue such as this but am I? Yes. And maybe “no.” Or maybe there is no right and wrong. I and others feel the national anthem is sacred, symbolic and deeply special. My dad is a Korean war veteran. I stand during its playing with my hand on my heart.  At the same time, I have not walked in the shoes of a minority who is preyed upon by prejudice, hate and injustice. If some choose to serve as a voice for individuals in such communities that don’t have voice, on a national stage, they have every right, in the opinion of many, to do so. They have said they too love the flag and this country and respect the sacrifices of our armed forces.

I would suggest that what we should be trying to agree to is that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is where we are all free to express our opinions. And those opinions and those who express them should at least be respected. There are a lot of moving parts on this one. Owners need to think about their customers but also the morale of their employees. Ultimately, on an issue such as this, we need to agree to disagree and move on.  Boycott an NFL game or the league altogether if you see fit. Or not.

As importantly, it is vital that our leaders demonstrate decorum and restraint on this or any controversy. Again, expressing an opinion is one thing. Publicly attacking by name calling and calling for people’s jobs is childish, inappropriate and divisive. What about, instead, sitting down with players and ownership for a discussion? What about working with the NFL on developing other forums and avenues for examining issues of race and inequality in this country? These are times where, rather than everyone standing their ground immovable, we should look for ways to “give an inch” and find common ground.  Only then can any true solutions ever occur.