If there’s any athlete that embodies the resilience of a city, it’s New Orleans’ star quarterback Drew Brees. NFL fans remember how he galvanized the city of New Orleans after the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. According to bleacherreport.com, Brees’ Dream Foundation worked with Operation Kids to rebuild schools and athletic facilities in New Orleans, as well as provide after-school mentor programs for children with learning needs. Brees’ overall generosity has given him a reputation as one of the NFL’s all around great guys.
That reputation took a hit after Brees’ comments to Yahoo Finance Editor at Large Daniel Roberts. Roberts asked Brees’ responsibilities as a leader considering the unrest America is currently facing because of police brutality. Roberts also asked Brees about kneeling during the anthem, a gesture former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick adopted in 2016 to protest police brutality.
According to Yahoo, Brees replied in part, “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. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. 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.”
Brees’ comments created a firestorm throughout the sports world. His teammate, All Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, tweeted his opinion on the matter. Philadelphia Eagles’ safety Malcolm Jenkins played with Brees in New Orleans from 2009 to 2013, and offered this assessment of Brees’ comments. Some might think Brees’ comments are insensitive, while others think Brees is reaffirming his patriotism for America.
None of that matters. Brees is entitled to his opinion, just like everyone else is entitled to theirs. No one needs to educate Brees on the significance that kneeling during the anthem has for some players and NFL fans. The kneeling protests are about protesting against police brutality, not about the flag or the national anthem. Whether Brees understands or cares about that is irrelevant. While it would be nice to have a high profile player like Brees support the ideas behind the protests, he has no legal or moral obligation to do so.
As teammates that greatly coexist fluidly on the field, it might be incumbent for Brees and Thomas to have a conversation about Brees’ comments to preserve some sort of professional relationship. While Brees disagrees with kneeling during the anthem, if one of his supremely talented teammates were to kneel, it can’t be imagined that he would take great steps to have that player released. That’s because views that support or condemn protests aren’t illegal, and as long as talented teammates that oppose Brees can help the Saints win, Brees would be a fool to try to have that player released.
Brees has been around long enough to know what the protests are about, so he can’t feign ignorance about them. It isn’t the job of supporters of national anthem kneeling to educate him on them, because Brees alone can’t continue or end police brutality. NFL fans can choose to enjoy what Brees does on the field, or they can not watch entirely. In any case, the recent events in Minneapolis will continue to polarize America regardless of how Drew Brees’ opinions on national anthem kneeling.