I don’t often defend celebrities and professional athletes. Especially when they make stupid or controversial comments on political or racial matters. However, in this post, I make an exception.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made headlines and broke the Internet yesterday when his statement regarding his stance on NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem hit the airwaves.
Brees is quoted as saying “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States; in many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed, and not just in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.” Source of statement: https://abc30.com/sports/drew-brees-says-he-doesnt-agree-with-disrespecting-the-flag/6229737/
Many of Brees’ Saints teammates publicly took exception to his comments, which in my opinion are being unfairly construed as Brees not supporting the movements in support George Floyd and against police brutality against black Americans. Many people on social media are lambasting Brees and suggesting he is a racist.
My observation is that Brees’ comments are not critical of the recent protests or the Black Lives Matter movement, nor do they support any white supremacy narrative. His comments are germane to his disagreement with kneeling during the National Anthem. In fact, his comments acknowledge the sacrifices Americans of all ethnicities made during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.
I wrote about the kneeling controversy almost a year ago:
In that post, I defended our constitutional right to peacefully protest. As a veteran, my oath was not to protect and defend the flag or the anthem, but the Constitution. We have a right to free speech, up to and including burning our country’s flag. I personally do not find kneeling in protest as disrespectful because our constitutional rights and freedoms are far more important than mere symbolism.
That said, freedom of speech and expression is a double-edged sword…
Brees also has the right to disagree with the kneeling protests and even to view them as disrespectful to the country and its military.
Brees’ family has a rich history of military service. Combined with the fact that he is from Dallas, Texas (like me), an area of the country that is very patriotic, I totally understand where he is coming from.
One of our biggest problems in this country is that people do not want to hear YOUR opinion; they want to hear THEIR opinion regurgitated and reflected back to them by everyone else. To have a differing opinion makes you “an enemy”, worthy of scorn and aspersion. In my estimation, THAT is unfair.
Unfortunately, far too many of us seek agreement rather than understanding when discussing or debating politics or controversial topics.
There is a very poignant quote that comes to mind here regarding opinions:
Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.Bill Bullard
As a black American, I certainly identify with Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement, even if I do not fully agree with their methods or fully agree with their opinions.
Conversely, as a veteran and as a native Texan, like Drew Brees, I can identify with his position, even if I disagree with his patriotic absolutism regarding the flag and the anthem.
The people blasting Drew Brees on social media and in the press are acting as fanatical as the people that actively oppose their movement. They are acting just like the white supremacists who work to undermine the cause they support.
Expecting perfect allegiance to every aspect of a cause from everyone the cause is communicated to is the perfect way to undermine the cause. It dissuades unaffiliated people who might otherwise be persuaded to understand, empathize with, and even support the cause from doing so. Movements need at least the passive support of unaffiliated people to endure.
Drew Brees is not obligated to agree with the methodology of the protest in order to understand and even support what the protest stands for. It is unfair for people to construe his patriotic stance as opposition to the cause.
Just like respect, understanding goes two ways. You have to be understanding to get understanding.
Agreement is not necessary.
UPDATE: Drew Brees issued an apology for his comments. That certainly speaks to his character, but given my perspective on this subject, an apology was not necessary, in my opinion.
Ironically, Brees’ apology validates this writer’s comments regarding opinions and empathy. Brees’ teammates and detractors should probably look in the mirror.
-The Rational Ram