Drew Brees, Saints quarterback and longtime supporter of the armed forces, is the latest in an ever-increasing number of NFL players, coaches, and athletes from other sports to speak out about Colin Kaepernick‘s decision to sit during the national anthem to protest the oppression of black people and other people of color. As you might imagine, people have had some strong thoughts on this particular form of protest, which when the entire purpose of a particular protest is to raise awareness of a larger issue or problem, it’s probably the desired side effect for Kaep.
Recent sports personalities or athletes who have shared their opinions include former 49ers coach and current Michigan Man Jim Harbaugh (who sort of/kind of/maybe walked back his statements shortly after making them), Giants receiver Victor Cruz, and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. Each person who has decided to comment thus far has gone about it with varying levels of respect and tact.
Now, Brees is tossing his opinion into the ring as well. In comments made to ESPN, Brees says he “wholeheartedly disagrees” with Kaepernick’s choice in this situation. Her clarifies his thoughts by saying,
“Not that he wants to speak out about a very important issue. No, he can speak out about a very important issue. But there’s plenty of other ways that you can do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t involve being disrespectful to the American flag.”
“The great thing about this country is that we have the freedoms that allow you to speak out openly about any issue. So I’m not commenting on the issue itself because any person has the right to speak out on any issue they want. That’s the great thing about being an American. But the American flag is what represents those freedoms.”
“Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.”
Brees has some valid points, and is commenting on Kaepernick’s choice with more tact than most others. It also makes sense that the Saint is so deferential and protective of the flag, as there are multiple people in his family that served in the armed forces throughout history. He himself devotes some of his personal time to going on USO tours in support of the troops. In regards to how important the flag is to him, he says…
“Like, I could shed a tear every time the national anthem plays if I would allow myself because it’s that powerful.”
So it makes sense. It’s a powerful symbol of our country and our freedoms, especially for somebody who comes from a military family and considers disrespecting the flag essentially disrespecting all of those fighting to protect it. However, the violence and danger that is attached with simply not being white in the U.S. is something that matters to large swaths of the country’s population and many members of the military probably feel the same as Kaepernick.
It’s a touchy subject all around, and each person is going to react differently. At least Brees took the time to think through his feelings on the subject, even if not everybody will agree with his thoughts. Kaepernick has vowed to sit during the national anthem at all games until there is “significant change” in the United States when it comes to police violence and the treatment of minorities throughout the country. It’s pretty safe to say that Brees won’t be the last football player to make his opinion on the controversy known.
In what might be considered a surprise, Saints coach Sean Payton declined to comment specifically about the issue, only saying “Honestly, we have a lot more important things that we’re working on right here in our building.” Amen to that, Sean.