At a time when New Orleans Saints fans are usually starting to get ready for the upcoming NFL season ahead, the United States of America and its citizens are now currently standing at the crossroads of an extremely critical juncture in our nation’s history.
But yesterday, the team’s “living legend” and starting QB Drew Brees quickly found himself embroiled in controversy — following his comments meant to express his support for his fellow African-American teammates over the horrific murder and racial injustice committed against Minnesota resident George Floyd — but instead ended up verbally “sacked” by fellow players and fans throughout the entire sports world.
Now the question must be asked: is the future Hall of Famer caught in the hypocrisy of modern-day America?
I won’t re-hash the events surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death out of deep respect for his family and community, but most Saints / Who Dat fans are well aware that all four police officers have now been jailed and face 2nd degree murder charges which have touched off protests all across the country from coast-to-coast.
Unfortunately however, extremist groups from both sides of the political spectrum on both the Far Left / Liberal side as well as the Far Right / White Nationalist side, along with the participation of shameless opportunists; are being blamed for having marred the mostly-peaceful protests by looting and ransacking businesses in blatant violence-filled acts of coordinated criminal activity.
Brees presumably was very upset over those very same acts of violence, but then yesterday morning during an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Finance, spoke to his long-held personal beliefs after he was asked by writer and Editor-at-large Daniel Roberts, as to what his personal thoughts were on the probability that many NFL players will likely kneel during the national anthem in the upcoming 2020 Season.
Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about “players kneeling again when the NFL season starts.”@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020
Many fans will recall that Brees famously (and vigorously) was against that particular form of protest that was first initiated back four years ago, during the 2016 NFL Season by then-San Francisco 49ers starting QB Colin Kaepernick, who was subsequently “black-balled” or banished from playing in the League over his views on systematic racism in the American justice system and abhorrent acts of police violence against minorities and persons-of-color (and specifically African-American communities nation-wide).
Brees then made it very clear to Roberts that he continues to be opposed to kneeling during the anthem, simply because he views it as being extremely disrespectful to the symbolism of the American flag.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees told Roberts. “Let me just tell you 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. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.”
Brees then made the point that the act of standing at attention “military-style” with your hand over your heart, is a better and more effective manner in which a person can demonstrate a way of showing unity and respect for what he believes the flag truly represents for all American citizens regardless of skin color, religious faith, or political views.
“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, it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed,” Brees said. “Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s, and everyone, 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’s 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.”
After details of the interview and the accompanying video circulated throughout various forms of Social Media however, Brees was met with harsh criticism — and got LIT UP by several prominent athletes which included his very own teammates Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cam Jordan, Malcom Jenkins , and retired legendary Saints WR / former teammate Marques Colston, among others.
Malcolm Jenkins emotional on his IG on new/old teammate Drew Brees’ comments
“We need help”
“I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re someone I had a great deal of respect for.
But sometimes you should shut the f*** up”
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) June 3, 2020
We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that.
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 3, 2020
— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) June 3, 2020
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but This ain’t it, Does it seemingly denounce the focal point of what the intended kneeling was meant for, yes! 📱
— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) June 3, 2020
— Marques Colston (@MarquesColston) June 3, 2020
If that wasn’t bad enough, Brees’ comments were also viewed very negatively by a handful of several other prominent athletes from across the sports world, such as Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, retired NFL Hall of Fame safety (and Louisiana native) Ed Reed, and current NBA basketball / Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.
New Orleans native Ed Reed unloads on Drew Brees, who reiterated his stance that he’ll never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag:
“I see Drew Brees trying to do his part in keeping black folk down. You’re a straight sucker for that.”pic.twitter.com/wFfJjBhYw3
— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) June 4, 2020
Shortly thereafter, Brees sought to clarify his comments through an exclusive interview with ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett, but instead seemed to “double down” on his views of the protests and the entire George Floyd case that has consumed Americans from all walks of life for the past week and a half.
“I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regard to fighting for racial equality and justice,” Brees told Triplett. “I also stand with my grandfathers, who risked their lives for this country, and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.”
Not surprisingly, Brees’ comments to Triplett and his apparent refusal to “back away” from what many viewed as divisive beliefs, drew the ire of a rather sizable portion of Saints fans from a fairly-wide variety of different backgrounds, both Black as well as White.
His comments even had local NOLA residents that were protesting last night, chanting profanity-laced expletives as they marched in unison towards the Crescent City Connection bridge downtown.
— Bryn Stole (@brynstole) June 4, 2020
Several well-known writers from across the world of sports, then composed articles that were mostly critical of the 41-year old Brees, who many expect will retire after the upcoming season to pursue a career in broadcasting, presumably covering the NFL for NBC Sports on Sunday Night Football.
There were reports that Brees’ comments might even possibly lead to creating division in the team’s locker room in the upcoming weeks and months ahead, once the team reports to Training Camp later next month. A team meeting is said to be in the planning stages, to allow him and his fellow teammates to “air out” any differences between each other, beforehand.
I reached out to some Saints players about QB Drew Brees’ comments, many don’t want to give quotes to the media at this time. I’m told there is a plan for a team meeting to discuss this “in-house”
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) June 3, 2020
The Saints have one of the league’s best rosters, and were known for their locker-room culture. Now, suddenly, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to keep the team together.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) June 3, 2020
Then earlier this morning, Brees apologized to all of the fans and players that had taken offense to his comments.
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… https://t.co/Jg36d0Ad0l
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) June 4, 2020
Drew Brees apology from his Instagram: pic.twitter.com/9F9zGtOKV9
— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) June 4, 2020
I’ve spoken to multiple players and coaches on the New Orleans Saints since Brees’ apology. Many are proud of Brees’ apology, some want to ask him directly more questions, it seems today’s team meeting there is going to be significant communication and discussion with their QB.
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) June 4, 2020
Saints players are not concerned about their locker room chemistry. Demario Davis tells me this will all start from the top. “Sean Payton has always done a great job of keeping us on all on the same page. Also with leaders like Drew and Cam…this is all less about football…”
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) June 4, 2020
That then brings us to what I personally believe about this whole situation at the moment.
So what exactly qualifies me to comment about this entire mess that the Saints franchise now faces?
If anyone knows anything about the American flag and what it TRULY REPRESENTS, it would be me.
That particularly stems from my very own prior military service, as a proud and devoted member of the United States Air Force during the late 1980’s; including an assignment to Europe / NATO during what was known back then at that time, in the nation of “West” Germany (prior to German Reunification and the “fall” of the Russian-controlled Berlin Wall in late 1989).
So with that in mind, here is what I think about Brees and his views on the on-going protests that have the entire nation “on edge” at the current moment.
I believe that the Saints “living legend” is caught in the ridiculous HYPOCRISY of what has become modern-day America in the year 2020.
A nation that has ALWAYS treated its minority citizens — and especially African-Americans and persons-of-color in particular — as sub-standard human beings and beneath the alleged superiority of a nation founded by Caucasians and the White race, for well over 400-plus years.
The American flag doesn’t just only represent the White race or active members of the United States Armed Forces. Nor does it represent exclusively those who feel that they are “patriotic”, or consider themselves to be feverishly-loyal and blindly devoted to our country, no matter how well (or bad) that it treats its citizens.
The American flag is a representation of ALL OF US — Black, White, Latino, and Asian; gay, straight or trans-gender; Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic; and wealthy, poor, or in the “middle class” financially — and essentially no matter what their circumstances or backgrounds might actually be.
The right for FREE PEOPLE to protest their local or federal government, is a God-given right that’s GUARANTEED under our Constitution, to each and every individual person; regardless of whether YOU personally like it or don’t like it.
That is the the reason why I served my nation, for the FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION that is afforded to everybody, especially the African-American populace that is grieving the loss of yet another victim to a system CORRUPTED by injustice and inequality.
Please understand this much: NO ONE is questioning what Drew Brees has done for the Saints franchise, and the city of New Orleans, its great community, or the surrounding region (especially after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago).
And obviously after leading the team and organization to its one and only Super Bowl title / World Championship 10 years ago.
The bottom line is that Brees will forever be the franchise’s GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL-TIME. That fact is indisputable.
But sadly, the Saints greatest player of all-time is also TONE-DEAF when it comes to his views on this never-ending controversy, a controversy that potentially might tarnish his image among some Saints fans — and especially those fans who have LIVED AND EXPERIENCED the prejudices and oppression that they have been forced to endure — for several whole entire centuries now.
It’s that very same injustice and oppression that inspired Colin Kaepernick to kneel in protest during the playing of the National Anthem, and was WILLING to sacrifice his entire professional career to do so.
Are we as a nation, supposed to be OFFENDED by an African-American player kneeling in protest on the football field, INSTEAD of a racist police officer supposedly sworn to uphold the law but who chose to KNEEL on a man’s neck over a counterfeit $20 bill for crying out loud???
— Andy Ostroy (@AndyOstroy) May 27, 2020
The choice shouldn’t be too hard to make, but yet he we are once again.
That ladies and gentlemen, is the HYPOCRISY of modern-day America — the same hypocrisy that all of us including Drew Brees — are continually getting caught up in, day after day after day….
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius