*Players in the NFL have been protesting since last season, some of them for over a calendar year.

Notice I didn’t mention what they’re protesting because that is not important to my argument.

And the cause of their activism is negligible because no one is talking about the actual cause. The players are being criticized by conservative voices for their method of protest. This is the latest instance that reveals just how unimaginative conservatives are when it comes to things that are foreign to them. Their lack of imagination and empathy remains the main obstacle to improving American society.

NFL players have taken to kneeling during the national anthem as a way to illustrate their dissatisfaction with specific aspects of our society. But because no one had could remember kneeling during the anthem, their gesture was concluded to be an affront to the anthem and then by some sort of commutation, the armed forces. The irony is that many conservatives claim to be in favor of protesting injustice, but cannot wrap their heads around the idea that these football players are doing exactly that. To some conservatives the novelty of their protest invalidates it, which is nonsense. Conservatives need to work harder to allow for value in things they don’t have personal experience with. In some ways that encapsulates the entire situation.

Allow me to now identify the initial cause that spurred the kneeling: police brutality. And here again is the lack of imagination. Because conservatives cannot envision the police treating themselves unfairly, because they cannot envision a scenario in which the police treat them unfairly, they cannot conceive that anyone could have a different experience with law enforcement officers. It comes down to a lack of empathy for others on the part of conservatives, particularly when those others are African American and thus are allegations of racism.

Forgetting the particulars of the NFL situation, conservatives need to think outside of themselves. When that happens lots of other things in American society will fall into place.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.