NFL v. Kim Davis: The New False Equivalency

I haven’t done a Silly Meme Saturday entry in a while; perhaps because I now follow fewer people who post silly memes. But I still see them occasionally.

Silly Meme
This meme, while it was intended to poke fun at conservative hypocrisy, rests on a false equivalency between Kim Davis’ marriage license protests and the protests against police brutality and systemic racism by some NFL players.

The meme at right, which I’ve now seen in several different versions, uses a photo of Kentucky Court Clerk Kim Davis. At first, the words typed on the image sound like a conservative soundbite about NFL players protesting police brutality and systemic racism, but then the sentence ends with a twist.

“Thumbs up if you agree NFL players are employees at work and should therefore keep their politics out of… whoops we accidentally used a photo of Kim Davis.”

The power of the meme rests on the assumption that viewers are familiar with both (1) Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses, and (2) the conservative trope that “NFL players should stand for the anthem because they’re employees”. The idea is to point out the hypocrisy of conservatives who heartily supported Ms. Davis’ “civil disobedience” but now insist NFL players should just “do their jobs” and “protest on their own time”.

My biggest problem with the meme’s message is that it won’t change the mind of any conservative who holds both those positions, because they don’t see them as dissonant. They believe that Ms. Davis was standing up against “persecution” of her religious beliefs, much like the legendary young Hebrews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood up to Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who threw them into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow to a statue he’d made. And they believe the NFL players are being disrespectful to the U.S. flag for no good reason at all — perhaps because they’re “thugs”. So the meme’s only purpose then is to reassure liberals that yes, conservatives are hypocrites, and yes, we were right to criticize Kim Davis and we should probably laugh at her again.

But the whole point of the meme is falsified because its message rests on a false equivalency — an incorrect conclusion that the two situations are somehow similar. The only similarities between the Davis debacle and the NFL players kneeling is that people involved in both are actually “employees”. Let’s look at the differences:

1. Davis was a public servant — employed by a government body at the behest of voters; NFL players are employed by corporations (their respective teams). There have long been differences between public and private sector jobs.

2. Davis’ actions (refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples) directly discriminated against a protected class of people. NFL players’ actions (kneeling or sitting during the pre-game National Anthem) affect no one but themselves.

3. Davis’ actions prevented a group of citizens from accessing a government service they’re entitled to. Kneeling NFL players limited nothing to anyone.

4. Davis’ actions directly contradicted her own job description, which is to provide a government service to citizens. NFL players’ actions were irrelevant to their job description (which is to play football).

5. Davis claimed her actions were religiously motivated, despite zero religions actually saying that (that entry has been in place for three years; no one has been able to name a single religion with a doctrine or rule prohibiting baking cakes for same-sex couples, issuing government marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or otherwise discriminating against them). So she was lying. NFL players notably are not claiming a religious motivation, and in fact didn’t need to give a reason at all, because what they are doing is not illegal.

6. Davis’ entire point was negated by her own lifestyle (her religion condemns her own multiple marriages, as well as homosexuality). NFL players’ points were reinforced by the reaction to their silent protest.

  1. All that and there is no law against not standing for the playing of the National Anthem or the symbolic raising of the flag. And there’s nothing immoral or unethical about not participating in a group activity. I haven’t even figured out where the ‘disrespect’ comes into play. (I could argue that they are not showing respect, but I can’t say that they are disrespecting anything.) Kim Davis and her ilk, on the other hand, would have us believe that religious law, like Sharia, should trump our legal system. Which is about as un-American as you can get.

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