During a time when racial tensions are at its highest, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees doubled down on his stance that kneeling disrespects the flag. Brees was participating in a Yahoo Finance interview when he was asked what he thinks about players kneeling again when the NFL season starts. In short, Brees said “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
These recent comments are very similar to Brees’ stance when Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling in 2016: “I agree with his protest, I DON’T agree with his METHOD…When I look at the flag, I think about my [grandfathers] too. I think about a lot of things. Like when I stand and listen to the national anthem with my hand over my heart, there is emotions that well up inside of me.”
Brees’ perspective then and now are very telling. It shows that even though he says he agrees with the protest, he doesn’t understand it. If he understood why Colin was protesting, his response would have been very different.
After four years and several other black lives being taking at the hands of the police, Brees is still missing the point. If anything, the current social climate has reinvigorated the discussion around why Kaepernick began a peaceful protest. You can’t participate in Blackout Tuesday, voice your support for the black community, lock arms with your team on the sideline in solidarity, and then tell the world that you would not support players if they decided to protest to bring light to an issue that is plaguing our society.
The revelation that Brees still thinks the protest is about the flag sparked responses from his teammates and peers across the league.
After experiencing a myriad of backlash, Brees issued a public apology on Thursday morning. While this is the first step in repairing the damage, it is not lost on most people that this was a PR move to save face. The real issue at this point is how to repair the damage that has been done in the locker room.
Brees will have to start with a very real and open conversation with his teammates. The problem is, when you double down on a viewpoint over a four-year time period, they already know where you stand. When teammates start coming for their quarterback on social media, you have already lost them.
As the leader of the Saints and a respected quarterback in the NFL, people expected empathy and support when they needed it the most. Brees had an opportunity to stand up for the black community and his black teammates. Instead he made the issue about the flag. There is no amount of PR that can help him recover from the respect he has lost among his peers.