Saints QB fumbles but appears to recover
Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He’s achieved his status through uncanny accuracy, knowledge of his opponents, awareness of his surroundings to avoid setbacks and a propensity for making the right call to keep his team moving forward.
Unfortunately, the traits that have helped him become an expected first-ballot hall of fame player were absent this week when, in the face of nationwide protests against the killing of Lloyd George in Minneapolis two weeks ago, on Wednesday, the quarterback was asked about players kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to police brutality in an interview with Yahoo Finance. Brees voiced his disapproval, as he did three years ago when players, led by then San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the anthem in protest, saying he thought it was disrespectful to the flag and American soldiers and sailors. He said he believes the flag and anthem represent unity and that he thinks about the sacrifices his grandfathers made in World War II when standing for their display and playing.
Kaepernick, and others, have said since they began speaking out that their protests are designed to shine light on a multitude of issues affecting black Americans, and that they are not an affront to the military and soldiers who fight and have fought to defend the ideals and rights set out by our Constitution.
Brees’ initial response was shocking because he didn’t seem to show the attributes that have made him so great on the field. He was inaccurate. He didn’t appear to be up to speed on what was going on around him, and was, seemingly, unaware of how his words would impact his teammates, fans, or himself.
From teammates in his own locker room to fellow professional athletes to the man on the street, the fallout from Brees’ comments were immediate and forceful. Considering our nation has experienced 10-plus days of protests against Floyd’s killing, many thought Brees’ explanation was tone deaf.
After a virtual team meeting to hash out the effects of his comments, Brees apologized and has issued two statements on social media, including a self-recorded video to convey his sincerity.
“I know there’s not much that I can say that would make things any better right now,’ Brees said via Instagram. “But, I just want you to see in my eyes how sorry I am for the comments that I made yesterday.
“I know that it hurt many people, especially friends, teammates, former teammates, loved ones, people that I care and respect deeply. That was never my intention.
“I wish I would have laid out what was on my heart in regards to the George Floyd murder, Ahmaud Arbery, the years and years of social injustice, police brutality and the need for so much reform and change in regards to legislation and so many other things to bring equality to our black communities.
“I am sorry and I will do better and I will be part of the solution and I am your ally.”
Following the team meeting and Brees’ apologies, he has been shown some forgiveness.
Saints receiver Michael Thomas, who on Wednesday tweeted “He don’t know no better,” after Brees’ Yahoo Finance interview broke, wrote on Twitter yesterday, “’One of my brothers made a public statement yesterday that I disagreed with. He apologized & I accept it because that’s what we are taught to do as Christians. Now back to the movement! #GeorgeFloyd.’
The good news is that there has been reconciliation and the beginning of healing. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first public relations minefield Brees has seemingly stumbled into. Just last year, he was embroiled in controversy for recording a public service announcement promoting “Bring Your Bible to School Day” for Focus on the Family, a group which has actively campaigned against gay rights. Following that controversy, Brees said he never meant to associate himself with anti-gay messaging.
A second misstep in as many years has been shocking for those who have seen Brees as a dedicated family man who has willingly given his time to sick children and their families and donated roughly $35 million to charitable contributions along the Gulf Coast since joining the Saints 2006, including $5 million to aid coronavirus relief efforts in Louisiana.
I don’t think Brees is a bad guy, quite the contrary, but he needs to understand what black Americans have dealt with and are dealing with on a daily basis. Black soldiers have been fighting alongside whites for the same ideals and rights since Crispus Attucks became the first fatality of the American Revolution at the Boston Massacre. They continued to fight when they were allowed to join the U.S. Army in 1863. They served in the World Wars. They believed their service would be their acceptance into the “unity” of the flag. Still, it was 20 years after the fall of the Axis that the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s began to provide the rights won a century before. But racism still affects the lives of black Americans in nearly every corner of our country.
If there is any good news, it is that Brees has issued a sincere apology that has been accepted by those that know him best. There will be some who won’t accept, even ignore, his contrition, but, hopefully, Brees will be transformed by this and become a model for overcoming ignorance and moving toward healing.