Brees Is the Example of Needing to Listen

Last week Drew Brees sparked internet outrage after voicing his opinion on the American flag protests. The New Orleans QB said he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America…” and “I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice. I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on the daily basis.”

Of course given recent events these comments are really tone deaf, even for the rest of the interview he gave. Before that he said “I think we accomplish greater things as a community, as a society and a country when we do it together. And I think that we’re all equipped with great talents, abilities and strengths and we can use that with each other and for each other…Obviously there are riots and there are protests and people are certainly out there showing their frustration as well but I think at the end of the day we need to find ways to work together to provide opportunities for one another to continue to move our country forward to a bigger and better place.”

That was a perfect answer for what is happening but him saying “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag.” was him disregarding what seems to be his general attitude because people are trying to draw attention to it and he ruled it all out. The protest was never about disrespecting the flag but the narrative was politicized and changed to that. Saying you understand why the protests are happening but saying “I never will…” means you aren’t open to the converstation. That was wrong and that was his mistake.

Drew Brees apologized the next day on Instagram saying “…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.

…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…”

Of course after misstepping he still took criticism for his white privliege, being fake and just covering for himself. The question is ‘which is the real Drew Brees?’ His teammates like Michael Thomas and Cam Jordan seemed to accept his apology and former teammate Joe Horn came out before his apology to support him saying he knows the man he is and what he has done for the New Orleans community. Brees said himself it’s about action and not words and so the apology was a start but not enough.

The problem with Drew’s take is the same as Colin Kaepernick’s original protest, it became politicized and tried to take control of the narrative. The president voiced his support and Fox News Laura Ingraham said ‘Drew Bress can have an opinion’ after telling LeBron James ‘Just shut up and dribble’ for having his opinion on the country. That is of course hypocritical and borders on racism, so Brees’ next step was critical to put action in place and not just have words.
Mrs. Brees started it with the action with her own Instagram apology saying “WE ARE THE PROBLEM… 

We can read books to our children about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X., Hank Aaron, Barack Obama, Rosa parks, Harriet Tubman.. and feel like we are doing our part to raise our children to love, be unbiased and with no prejudice. To teach them about all of the African Americans that have fought for and risked their lives against racial injustice. Somehow as white Americans we feel like that checks the box of doing the right thing. Not until this week did Drew and I realize THAT THIS IS THE PROBLEM.

…We have heard stories from men and women we have known and loved for years about the racism that occurred in their lives .. stories that were never shared or talked about because somehow they were considered normal. To all of our friends and anyone we hurt …we will do better.. We want to do better , we want to HEAR you, and we will fight for you because thinking we are not part of the problem…is checking the box it means we are are not doing enough. It’s our job to educate ourselves. We are sorry.”

That is exactly the right response to what Drew Brees said about the National Anthem apologies and really what white people need to think about. I wrote that I can try and understand what the African American experience is and need to remove the entitlement of thinking I can understand because I never will. What needs to happen is we just need to listen.

I think Brees followed up his apology with action that validated what his wife said when he posted on Instagram to the president “To Donald Trump,
Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.

We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.

We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?
We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

This is a critical response of action because what his comments did, I believe unintentionally, was fuel the narrative that the National Anthem protests disrespected the military and country and can disregard the message of what the narrative is about. It was already being done after Brees posted his apology.

olin Kaepernick’s message was right, and the NFL has even now come out and said so, as he chose a peaceful protest that many are backtracking to with the riots that have broken out around the country. To be clear there is a massive difference between the rioters and protests and they are not one in the same. Kap was ridiculed and I truly believe he had no intentions of disrespect and even took a suggestion from a former army ranger on the best way to express his peaceful protest. There were also plenty of former military personnel that were in agreement with what Kap was doing, but there were also plenty that disagreed with it.
The American flag is a piece of cloth that represents a lot and different things to everyone. It’s a symbol of what the country should be, it’s a representation and reminder that freedom isn’t free to America. I think a symbol is given power by the actions meant for it and not just the flag itself but it can be a powerful symbol. Is the country perfect, absolutely not. The protests are expressing that clearly and the country of the United States of America isn’t perfect and work needs to be done. 

Drew Brees was speaking what the flag means to him but was furthering an untrue narrative. I’m sure most people don’t think they’re racist at all but what the protest has been about is opening the white communities eyes to the wrong that is the acceptance of status quo, to not being open to the experience of our fellow Americans in the African American community and the fact that we haven’t listened enough or actually heard what is going on and being shared by black communities. It is almost a sense of entitlement that we as the white community have it figured out and could lead the charge when the truth is we don’t totally understand African American experiences and need to support them as they speak their truths and lead the charge.

I went to a public high school and have always been around all races and types of people and never had a problem with anyone. I’ve dated girls of different nationalities and never have, nor will, consider myself racist but that in itself is the problem. I think most people say they’re an ally by not being racist but haven’t actively done anything to change it and that’s exactly what Mrs. Brees spoke to. It’s an almost insensitivity because you think things are fine even though you see what is wrong.

In a conversation recently with my father I think he crystallized it perfectly when he said “I will never understand the experience of an African American and these protests have been the big eye opener to that.” That was the realization for both of us that the example we need to be is in supporting this movement by listening and echoing what is being said by those that have lived with these injustices.

To me there are things you can love about the country and agree that it’s not perfect. I think that’s where Brees was coming from in his experiences with flag, National Anthem and his families sacrifices serving in the military, but he voiced it incorrectly. The protests are about a beat down community being heard and opening eyes and in an eagerness as human beings people have said ‘I get it and am part of the solution.’ when it has been a misstep as a whole because ultimately the white community needs to be a force for change but do so in a supportive role behind African Americans so to not bulldoze over what they’re sharing and have experience.

This is what we need to do as a community, to listen to what maybe just never sank in. There is only one right side on police brutality and systemic racism, but we as American people also need to be weary of actually listening to others’ opinions because for a lot of other things in life there are more gray area. Brees misstepped with his comments on the National Anthem protest, but in doing so can be the leader for the white community in exactly what we need to open our eyes and ears up to.