Drew Brees is an iconic figure in Louisiana, the NFL and beyond; a proud military man from a military family. He's a proud Christian and a proud American. However, for the second time in six months, he has totally dropped the ball in the face of the reaction to the events that took place in the great city of Minnesota. Only this time, we mean it more in the metaphorical sense... Brees dropped the ball on the Black Lives Matter movement. In a way, Brees dropped it on George Floyd.
When asked about whether he'd be willing to take the knee during the US national anthem in protest, Brees had this to say:
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps... So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those 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. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”
And, with that, Brees broke the hearts of his teammates when he said it, leading to a foray of social media activity. Other players on the New Orleans' roster, including the league's best WR, Michael Thomas, were highly vocal in their criticism of their team's leader.
Now, is Brees a bad guy? No, absolutely not. The man famously does a LOT of community work in the Bayou, and it was only two months ago he was being heralded as an angel for donating $1m to COVID-19 relief in New Orleans. So, let's not immediately throw him to the wolves here. Drew Brees is not (according to any report I can find from a twenty-year career) a racist.
What he is, though, is a shining example of white people simply not getting it. I dare say we could use Brees's current beliefs/values as a control, or a current-standard for many white Americans (and probably a fair few Brits too for that matter.) Certainly many of those that I've met - all good people, sure - Christian, proud nationalists, love their military, etc (nothing wrong with any of that) as you would expect. It's just that they seem to be ignorant (deliberately or otherwise) to the plight of a particular demographic of their society, the black community.
How does Brees need to do?
What this movement needs to do is to get through to people like Drew Brees - people who are fundamentally good, non-racist, but who just don't understand, or won't accept the prolonged injustices suffered by people of color in the US, or that NOW is the time to do something about it. And Brees can still help make it happen.
What a great sight it would be to see the NFL's all-time pass-leader ('Mr. Whiteboy' ) return from his protagonist's journey through the depths of hell - like a phoenix risen from the ashes of the riots - complete with new knowledge of racial-equality and brotherhood; to see Brees take the knee as Colin Kaepernick did in support of civil rights for the African American population.
Imagine the effect it would have on America's children of all color to see the man they call 'Breesus' take that knee in a show of solidarity with the victimized people of color of the US, to see a hero admit his flaws and to grow as a man. I dare say it would be a transformative moment for many.
Imagine a strongly written letter to the president signed by ALL the NFL's mostly-white still (somehow?) QB's - including Brees. What a message that would send, and what an incredible show of solidarity it would be.
The point is that Drew Brees now has a chance to carry with him some of the burdens of disgruntled, progressive-USA. If he can listen to his teammates; absorb their discontent; understand their frustration, and go on to represent them and their righteous beliefs, he could still be a hero in the Bayou yet.
Brees has already issued a full apology (seen below) but did stop short of agreeing to take the knee which is, ultimately, what he will need to do to win back the faith of his comrades and POC in his community. Otherwise, it's just more words.
"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." - Drew Brees
For what it's worth, Michael Thomas did accept this apology from Brees.
Here's hoping the Saints beautiful, black contingent can get through to Brees. If Drew Brees is willing to grow as a person and to learn to understand the point of these protests, he could become the very personification of what these riots are all about: change. Change in people; change in society, and change in America and beyond.
The opinions in this op-ed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sportskeeda or its staff.