Aaron Rodgers Explained To Drew Brees That Protests Have ‘Never Been About The Anthem Or Flag’

The past week has featured an awful lot of statements from various athletes, sports teams, brands, and any other entity with a social media account on the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, while three other officers watched it happen.

Some have been poignant, like Ben & Jerry’s, commenting on the issues of police brutality, systemic racism, and the ways those are intertwined and have led to the disproportionate targeting and killing of the black community for the entire history of the United States. Others have been vapid white text on black background statements offering an admission that “racism is bad, so is people dying” without ever once mentioning the police or what the current nationwide protests are trying to highlight.

The variance of statements also applies to sports teams and figures, as some have been outspoken — including those that have marched in the streets and organized protests — while others give some sort of milquetoast statement and move on. Drew Brees offered up one of those latter kind of statements over the weekend, but on Wednesday when asked how he would feel if NFL players returned to kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, Brees showed he’s learned little to nothing in recent years about the point of those protests by saying he’ll never support “disrespecting the flag.”

Brees was quickly ripped by teammates like Michael Thomas for his statement, as well as being taken to task by LeBron James who reminded him, like many others, that there were plenty of black soldiers from World War II (and every other subsequent war) that fought for freedom before returning to the United States to deal with the same systemic racism that existed when they left.

Beyond that, the continued mischaracterization of the protests from Colin Kaepernick and others as a protest of the anthem or the flag or the military or anything other than police brutality and racial injustice infuriated many, including Aaron Rodgers who felt compelled to post a response to Instagram making clear what was what.

A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.

It’s clear that Rodgers is speaking to Brees and everyone else that trots out that talking point that they were disrespecting the flag or the anthem or whatever else by peacefully and silently protesting. This week has also served as a reminder that no matter the situation, people in power who want the status quo to remain as it is will never tolerate or accept protests in any form. It’s why many of the people who insist protesting during the anthem is bad said this week they’d respect peaceful protests, but not ones like this week that occasionally featured looting or rioting (often after provocation from police).

What Rodgers is saying is nothing the athletes involved in the protests haven’t said for years, but as a prominent white quarterback in the NFL, challenging another to better understand the message and to listen and learn is important.