Quarterbacks say the darnedest things: The Drew Brees edition

We live in an odd time, where racial tension is as high – and high profile – as it has been in my lifetime.  That’s over a half century, folks.  File the latest Drew Brees soundbite into the annals of History Will Teach Us Nothing, especially if we’re not paying attention.

The kneeling for the national anthem, and corresponding “disrespecting of the flag” argument that goes along with it, has been discussed ad nauseum.  It was an issue that was recently brought to our attention thanks to the actions of Colin Kaepernick and others, when they took a pre-game knee to protest what they felt was wrong with America, most notably lopsided, police misconduct and white-on-black crime.

A once promising superstar, Kap was all but blackballed from the league for his controversial stance, or his performance, depending on who you believe.

There is another quarterback making headlines this week and it’s not even football season.  Of course, it is no sports season thanks to good ol’ Coronavirus but in this post, I’ve chosen to discuss another pandemic that’s halted our health as a nation.  That is neither racism nor inequality but rather the ongoing inability to see another’s side of an argument.

I get that Americans are offended by disrespecting the flag.  It’s a trigger issue and always has been.  Growing up playing sports and attending sporting events, I always took my cap off for the anthem and put my hand over my heart. I never gave it a second thought.  That’s because I’ve never been given a reason to protest how my nation has treated, or mistreated, me.

It is important that we understand this movement started long before Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, a gesture for which he consulted a retired Army Green Beret before doing.  Any self-respecting student of sports and the civil rights movement knows this started not with Kaepernick… but he sure as hell brought it back into prime time.

To be clear, Drew Brees has every right to be upset about people “disrespecting the flag.”  Brees’ grandfathers both fought in World War II.  His league mates, however, whose relatives also served in our nation’s military, have every right as Americans to feel that the flag their families fought for, disrespects them, which is really what this debate is all about.  Their forefathers had a different America to return home to. 

Those who served in the military were not defending the flag per se, but rather what the flag is supposed to represent, which is liberty and justice for all.  The flag is merely a symbol, so if the flag, or dare I say Constitution, is not holding up its part of the bargain, then what is it in the end that we are all fighting for?  And why has Drew Brees, a man who has been revered in his community for the longest time, a man who helped rebuild New Orleans after a devastating natural disaster, not yet had these conversations with his teammates?

It still seems we’re going round in circles on this issue with no one meeting halfway and understanding the others point of view.  Players, especially Brees’ teammates, feel he has yet to understand the meaning behind the movement in the first place.  They feel the flag has let them down.  They feel their nation has let them down.  And by not listening, they now feel Brees has let them down.  Those who kneel are not saying they are not proud to be American.  They’re saying there’s a problem within America that concerns them and rightfully so.  It is their right as Americans to voice these opinions and to be heard.

Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio recently said he feels there is “no racism at all in the NFL.”  Spoiler alert: Fangio is white.  Although he coaches in a league comprised of primarily black athletes (but not black coaches or ownership), Fangio has probably never experienced racism, at least not to the extent that others around him have.  In response to Fangio’s comments, former player-turned-analyst Anthony McFarland agreed that, when it comes to the locker room, Fangio was probably right.  Players of all ages, shapes, sizes and socio-economic backgrounds tend to peacefully coexist within the NFL locker room.  But to imply the league is free and clear of racism is ludicrous and blissfully uninformed.  Just last week, the league tweaked its Rooney Rule with regards to minority hiring, admitting it still has an issue when it comes to the advancement of minorities at the executive level.

Like it or not, we live in a time where you need to watch what you say, most certainly if you say it with conviction, whether you’re a quarterback or a local politician.  Protests against inequality, sometimes peaceful sometimes not, are taking place every day in every major city across America.  It’s probably time we take a good hard look at why.

It’s been years since Kaepernick took a knee, longer than that since Art Shell became the first black head coach in the NFL and even longer than that since other, more notable milestones have taken place but in the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long at all.  It was only a little over a decade ago that we lauded the first Super Bowl between two black head coaches.  While that’s reason to celebrate, so is the day we no longer recognize that as an historic accomplishment, just as we don’t acknowledge Super Bowl I as the first Super Bowl played between two white head coaches.

Movements like Black Lives Matter still draw as much anger and misunderstanding as a person kneeling for the anthem.  The two sides to this debate remain an unhealthy distance from seeing the others’ point of view with the flag still taking precedence, for the flag has been around a lot longer than black lives have mattered.

In the end, Brees may not have entirely tarnished a legacy he’s worked so hard for years to build.  To many, he came off sounding like a patriotic American, one who is proud of the sacrifices of those who came before him.  What he failed to understand is that the flag is a symbol of what those who fought for represents.  He has every right to speak his mind, a freedom his family fought for.  Those who disagree with him share that same right, as Americans, to question what that flag stands for if they feel it doesn’t stand for them.

For some reason, the NFL still cannot seem to get out of its own way when it comes to the flag issue.  Until they get their shit together and speak honestly, behind closed doors or in an open forum, the league will continue to stagnate.  I guess in that sense, it is a perfect microcosm of our nation after all.

11 thoughts on “Quarterbacks say the darnedest things: The Drew Brees edition

  1. Brees has definitely had better weeks, Al.

    I bet he’d like to rewind the clock and go back to the days when he was just talking about NFL referees screwing the Saints…. and not anything else.

  2. Interesting take and well written Chump. I have clearly been impacted by all of this, but it is not knew.
    In other writings about this specific Drew Brees moment, it was clear that he just doesn’t get it, and he’s not alone. Perhaps if he reads your blog, it may help. Or, he will hopefully read my response to him on Instagram.
    In his apology he alluded to doing better and using his position to be a leader in the BLM movement. I had to politely correct him and say that we don’t need him to be a leader in the BLM movement, but he could help if he was a leader in the White People Support Black Lives. I shared that we Black people have our leaders. The problem isn’t Black people, it’s the mindset of White folks that needs changing. It has been clear for decades that trying to get folks to change hasn’t worked well for Black folks. They’re just not hearing us. Perhaps if he were to lead a White folks group to change the racist attitudes of some White folks, they may listen to one of there own! I’m not suggesting in any way that Brees is a racist. What I am saying is that perhaps as a white man, they may listen to whatever he has to say that may change some attitudes. It certainly can’t hurt, and that kind of support would be welcome.

  3. At the risk of being permanently banned from your site, I would suggest that what would everybody say if white people started burning down shit if some redneck got killed (and it has happened plenty) thousands of miles from the incident?

  4. My fathet and uncles also served their country during WWII. One uncle stormed Omaha Beach and fought all the way to Germany, where he assisted in liberating a death camp. Many black soldiers fought and died for this country all over the world. The survivors came back to a country that forced them back into the role as second class citizens. The flag is a symbol of what our country can be, not what it has become. What the hell do white people have to protest? Men have died because some police and vigilanties have become judge, jury ,and executioner. The question is not why black Americans are protesting, it is why aren’t our leaders working to end these killings.

  5. Mony….

    It doesn’t help matters much that the guy in the big house continues to be antagonistic towards the league and its players.

    After a well-crafted statement, and apology, from the NFL, the combover continues to troll the league and its decision to support peaceful protest.

    I’d ask when this guy is going to leave well enough alone but I think we all know the answer to that question.

  6. Moose…

    You have some pull here, no banning any time soon.

    We provide a forum to discuss these matters in a healthy and constructive fashion.

    That plus it’s open bar.

  7. Deac…

    Therein lies another sad American hypocrisy, which is how we treat our veterans when they return home, regardless of their skin color.

  8. Moose,

    I would imagine a slightly bigger picture. The fact is, most of the recent rioting, burning and looting has been done by White folks. However misguided in alleged support of the BLM movement, it happens thousands of miles away because the type of incidents that have ignited such protests are rooted all across this country. From North to South, East to West, and people are just tired of it. I’m not condoning the behavior, I think it poor way to impact change, but I get it.

  9. Chris,
    I offer Drew Brees last comment, (that I heard), was a statement that says he now understands that it was never about the flag. It never has been! His sharing that inspires me to know he is now listening, and not afraid to learning. There is an old saying that “knowledge is power”. Perhaps with this new found knowledge, and a continued willingness to learn, others can follow suit.

  10. It’s funny, Mony, I was thinking that EXACT SAME THING on the ride home from work tonight. As usual, you and I are on the same page. Must be because we’ve known each other for a bit.

    If it took that embarrassment for Brees to realize what he said, why he said it and what other people are feeling, and then acknowledge that, then that’s one person closer to understanding what the fuck is going on. One big person, who can very possibly have that affect on others.

    A little communication goes a long way. Amazing we’re just realizing that.

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