With the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL is at an absolute standstill with absolutely nothing going on. The only news we have even had is Devonta Freeman receiving some (still unsigned) contract offers.
What a boring time. ENTER DREW BREES.
Brees went on Yahoo! Finance for unknown reasons (pitching his next multi-level marketing scheme?) and took a controversial stance also for unknown reasons. During worldwide protests related both specifically to George Floyd’s death while being forcefully detained by police, and more broadly, systemic oppression faced by black people, Brees ignored all of that and thought it was a good time to state he felt that kneeling, a form of quiet and peaceful protest, is disrespectful to the flag and the military. It’s basically the same take he had in 2017, but the world has changed around him.
On Yahoo! Finance. It is unclear which brain synapses misfired to cause Brees to volunteer such an opinion at such an inappropriate time, but the response was quick and fierce. Criticism came from all corners of the globe and even from Brees’ teammates. It is so rare to see so many teammates publicly criticize the face of their franchise that there are few, if any, comparable controversies. Because the criticism itself was often thoughtful and can help educate those who don’t understand or oppose the protests, and because this is Drew Brees, one of the most hated men in the NFL for Falcons fans, I thought it made sense to round up those reactions.
We should start with the third-best wide receiver in the NFC South.
He don’t know no better.— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 3, 2020
Alvin Kamara voiced what appears to be some vague concern.
oop...— Alvin Kamara (@A_kamara6) June 3, 2020
Standout linebacker Demario Davis called Brees’ statement unhelpful but was otherwise not very critical.
Let us stay focused on the issues that unite us. We are standing united to bring an end to systematic racism and address police brutality, especially against blacks people. If the conversation isn’t about that, it’s a distraction and isn’t helpful at this current time.— Demario Davis #56 (@demario__davis) June 3, 2020
The Saints’ biggest offseason addition called the guy throwing him passes ignorant.
Smh.. Ignorant— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) June 3, 2020
Former Saints running back Mark Ingram supported Aaron Rodger’s strong statement on the issue.
“It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now.”— Mark Ingram II (@markingram21) June 3, 2020
THANK YOU for speaking truth for the oppresssed and unheard.
THANK YOU for understanding the WHY. @AaronRodgers12 ✊ pic.twitter.com/khGyOSF2wL
Brees has become a point of contention among teammates, including these defensive ends.
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
The people of New Orleans, additionally, were... unimpressed.
Marques Colston, who spent his entire career in New Orleans with Drew Brees, had quite a lot to say about this.
Colston, and others, suggest things with Brees may have been boiling over for some time.
Always knew who he was! Every time y’all came at me and said I couldn’t come home because I didn’t think he was Jesus. Oh well! Keep cheering— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) June 3, 2020
He’s beyond lost. Guarantee you there were black men fighting along side your grandfather but this doesn’t seem to be about that. That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem https://t.co/ON81UsOWPw pic.twitter.com/HH3EVTIH8p— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) June 3, 2020
.@drewbrees the reason my children have to live in a world that won’t empathize with their pain is because people like you are raising your children to perpetuate the cycle. Drew, you are the problem.— Douglas Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) June 3, 2020
Current #Saints Safety @MalcolmJenkins is also speaking up against tone-deaf @drewbrees— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) June 3, 2020
"We're done asking Drew!"
"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*ck up." pic.twitter.com/KPHinGuQR7
Former Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks had one short answer on if Colin Kaepernick was blackballed by the NFL.
Akiem Hicks says it's clear to him that Colin Kaepernick lost his career because of kneeing then drops a bomb in the middle of the conversation: "We signed Mike Glennon."— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) June 3, 2020
Even LeBron James commented.
WOW MAN!! ♂️. Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those https://t.co/pvUWPmh4s8— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 3, 2020
Again, this is an unprecedented response in professional sports. For Brees to create this much of a headache with his insensitivity is absolutely shocking. Luckily, he posted a stock image with a weak pseudo-apology that failed to even walk back his most controversial statements.
View this post on Instagram
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 the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening...and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.
This may help tide over some of his teammates but is likely to be an ongoing story all offseason, especially given that Brees is entering what he has said is the final year of his career with Jameis Winston and future franchise QB Taysom Hill nipping at his heels.