The debate about whether football players should stand for the national anthem moved to the center of the national conversation last month. On Sunday, September 24, scores of National Football League players, knelt, sat or stayed in the locker room while the Star-Spangled Banner was played. What used to be a rote exercise that began all sports events suddenly became seen as an indicator of sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement or antipathy for President Donald J. Trump.
The most telling moment in the controversy, however, may have come a day later, when one NFL player felt compelled to apologize. The contrarian was not one of those allegedly protesting the nation’s perceived shortcomings. It was, instead, a player who stood at attention and with his hand over his heart while the anthem was played.