Three Points of View Find Common Ground on National Anthem Protests

The debate over protests during the national anthem in the NFL has been so divisive that it may be hard to see where the other side is coming from.

NBC 5 sat down Wednesday with three men from different backgrounds — a Dallas Cowboys legend, a veteran, and an activist — for an open conversation.

It started with a handshake and a seat at the table, as three strangers from different points of view introduced themselves.

"I'm Drew Pearson, the Original 88," the Cowboys great said.

To his left, "My name is Arthur Fleming. I'm a veteran and recent past president of NAACP Dallas."

And in the third seat, "My name is Clint McNear. I was in the Marines, and I'm a retired police officer."

At a picnic table in Frisco Commons Park, the three men looked each other in the eye and searched for common ground.

"Maybe we ought to discuss and try to look through each other's lenses for a little bit," McNear said.

It can be hard to hear each other when our divisions run so much deeper than team colors, when a player taking a knee means something radically different to two people.

"By choosing the vehicle that they have, through kneeling and disrespecting the military, that's the way the military takes it. It would be like Mr. Fleming saying, 'Clint, I'm going to slap you until you respect me,'" McNear said. "Well I hope we don't hold our breath, because if you're going to slap me until I respect you, that won't ever get there."

"We fought so they could kneel, that's what America is," Fleming countered. "Patriotism should be inspired, not required."

Fleming served during the Vietnam War and came home to fight for civil rights. He says kneeling for the anthem is just the latest front in a deep-rooted battle for equality.

"Each time, we have to fight for the gains that we make," Fleming said. "It's no different. It's like an American pattern."

But to Pearson, a football stadium is the wrong battlefield.

"If we're depending on the NFL and the players to solve this problem, we're barking up the wrong tree," he said.

Pearson believes players should stand for the anthem.

"How could you not stand because of what they gave up for you?" he asked.

But he added that we all need to stand together to move forward.

"Take it from protest, to process, to programs. But let's make something happen," Pearson said.

On this day, it started with three strangers trading questions.

"What are you trained to do as a police officer when you get in a confrontational situation?" Pearson asked McNear.

They shared perspective.

"The rate that we discipline, terminate and prosecute law enforcement is higher than it's ever been," McNear said.

They set goals.

"Let's meet and discuss, what can we do?" Pearson said. "But not just with the NFL players, have police departments and fire departments, city councils and all that in the meeting."

And they eased toward compromise.

"We have to be open-minded about it that maybe I wind up that I'm wrong and I have to accept what you're telling me, or maybe vice versa," McNear said.

It's a radical idea in a world of opposing teams. But after one conversation, three men left with a new understanding that the only true win is an even tie.

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