Yesterday, Drew Brees was trending on Twitter for this video interview he gave regarding kneeling protests to the national anthem, stemming from the current climate and anti-racism, anti-police brutality protests in the United States presently.
Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about "players kneeling again when the NFL season starts."@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020
The reaction was pretty swift and very critical, especially by some of his teammates and fellow NFL stars.
Richard Sherman immediately responded to Brees’ comments with “He’s beyond lost. Guarantee you there were black men fighting along side your grandfather but this doesn’t seem to be about that. That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem.”
AJ Brown of the Tennessee Titans tweeted:
If you don’t speak up about racism, then you’re apart of the problem. This man said the flag … trash
— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) June 3, 2020
Former Saints wide receiver Marques Colston, who played his entire career with Drew Brees as his quarterback from 2006-2015, had perhaps the most powerful response to Brees. Mentioning that, ” As a man, a black man, and a father, you comments today cut deep. Not because you have an opinion or perspective – but because it continues to be so dismissive and insensitive to others.” He also directly addressed the topic Brees focused on, respect for the military. “My dad fought a war for this same country, for the same flag as your grandfather. He didn’t have the luxury to dream about the ideals of America when he got ‘home.’ His reality was fighting to be treated like a human — in the very same country he just risked his life for. This ain’t about your ideals – this is real life.”
Even Aaron Rodgers indirectly responded to Brees:
View this post on Instagram
A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action. #wakeupamerica #itstimeforchange #loveoverfear❤️ #solidarity #libertyandjusticeforall #all
“It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag.”
The response was pretty overwhelming against Brees, and his comments appeared to be tone deaf and quite honestly ignorant. So he (and a PR team undoubtedly) reflected about his comments and how the public overwhelming reacted negatively to them. Today, he posted a statement on Instagram (shown at the bottom of the article), and I wanted to go over a few the lines, because frankly it seems like he still doesn’t get it.
He begins by apologizing to those affected by his comments for the pain he caused, and acknowledged that he “missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.” In all fairness to Brees, he was responding to a question directly about his opinion on kneeling during the national anthem, not on the current nationwide protests, but his response nonetheless lacked complete situational awareness.
And while at all times he had good intentions, lacking situational awareness was an overarching theme of his entire statement. He writes, “I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right.” Good intentions. Poor execution. The black community is not searching for white leaders at this moment – certainly allies who can support them, but if you asked any black person, I think they’re tired of white people leading their community. That’s not divisive, it’s the reality they’ve lived within for the last 400 years in America as a member of a classist society that persisted after the 13th amendment in the form of neo-confederate societies in the South preventing socially and economically mobile black people from being equals. His decision to “put myself in [the] shoes” of a black man is yet another poorly executed statement.
The line I had the most trouble with grasping was “I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday.” He’s not sorry that he said them, he’s sorry that people reacted the way they did. The general public, and I’m sure many of his own teammates, rightfully called him out for what he’s trying to pass off as spur-of-the-moment ignorance, but rather than retracting his statement or apologizing for his words, he is deflecting. His entire statement isn’t an apology for what he said, but for how his words were perceived…and that’s not an apology. His stance didn’t change. The entire post screams, “I regret publicly commenting my beliefs.”
Brees had two grandparents fight in World War II, though! 24% of the male population in America fought in World War II. I can’t find the percentage of the population with grandparents who are veterans, but if 1 in 4 males served in World War II, I’d estimate that 30 to 40% of Americans have at least one grandparent who served, many of whom are leading the current protests. Eric Reid, the second person to kneel during the National Anthem after Colin Kaepernick, has a long list of family members who served in uniform. Fortunately, as Aaron Rodgers so eloquently pointed out, “it has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now.” Hiding behind the flag while others unfairly die is fascist. There’s no other way to put it. That’s not crazy liberal thought, it’s literally part of the definition of fascism – the suppression of opposed thought coupled with extreme nationalism. It’s what led to the rise of Nazism in the very war that Brees’ grandfathers fought in. (I want to clarify explicitly that I am not and will not compare any present government to that of Germany’s in World War II).
Drew, you’re an amazing quarterback who has defied the odds throughout your career, but this follow up statement is an embarrassing way of saving face and protecting your public image – just as the cover photo of this article is as well. He’s quite literally kneeling with teammates during the National Anthem of a game on October 1st, 2017. His video interview yesterday proves, however, it was an opportunistic publicity stunt to protect his public image. His Instagram statement is not an apology for what he said, but evidently rather a confirmation of his beliefs. Certainly parts of his statement were true and heartfelt, but still “missed the mark” with his words. It was not an acknowledgement that his comments were wrong, and even without the public’s response I don’t believe he would recognize that his comments were ignorant and problematic.
I like how Bill Burr puts it. “You’re not listening.” (language warning).
“You’re not listening” pic.twitter.com/BLtEGHAzuZ
— S M A R F (@ColeyMick) June 3, 2020
Brees’ follow up statement on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.