The good thing about the conversations going on right now is that people are making it real clear where their priorities are. There are only two sides to rebellion against institutional racism, injustice and a totalitarian government: Stand with us or against us.
Chuck Modiano wrote for Deadspin on Tuesday that black athletes like Stephen Jackson and Shannon Sharpe and allies like Chris Long are calling for influential sports stars who say they are their “brothers” to stand up and speak out. It turns out that some of them, like Drew Brees, should just let adults speak.
Brees tweeted a black box supposedly in solidarity with racial equality, but that rings hollow when you consider that he was part of the outcry against Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Brees revealed on Wednesday that his priority is still about showing obedience to a symbol rather than the people fighting for justice and equality, the very things that flag is supposed to represent.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees told Yahoo Finance’s Dan Roberts.
The New Orleans quarterback said that when he stands at attention for the flag, that “I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps, to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.”
Brees seems to think he’s the only one with family members who fought in World War II. A million black servicemen made sacrifices and enlisted in the fight against oppression for a country that did not welcome them as equals at home. That includes the renowned Tuskegee Airmen who flew 15,000 sorties in Europe and North Africa.
Damien Woody tweeted a link to a story about how black GIs were denied from using the GI Bill that enabled veterans to get access to affordable housing and education. The GI Bill was the backbone of U.S. prosperity in the post-war years, giving rise to the myth of a utopian American Dream while simultaneously expanding the income disparity between blacks and whites.
Here’s another history lesson for Drew Brees: Adolf Hitler greatly admired the American system that committed genocide against Native Americans and enslaved and oppressed African-Americans for centuries. In 1935, The Atlantic reports, Nazi Germany sent 45 lawyers to New York to acquire “special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures.”
More recent history: Everyone forgets that the idea of kneeling during the national anthem didn’t come from Kaepernick, it came from a conversation he had with a member of the military. Kaepernick’s protest began not by kneeling but by sitting on the bench, and it angered Nate Boyer, a former active duty Army Green Beret. It was Boyer’s idea for Kaepernick to join his teammates on the sidelines, but to kneel as a sign of respect.
It didn’t take long for athletes to tell Brees he simply didn’t get it.
Teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who marched in Philadelphia with Black Lives Matter seeking justice for George Floyd, said, “Sometimes you should shut the fuck up.” On Instagram he said, “Drew’s words during his interview were extremely painful to hear and I hope he rectifies them with real action.”
LeBron James roasted Brees and told him his father-in-law is one of those servicemen.
Julius Peppers told him to take a timeout:
Brees should also consider the words of some who might normally be on his side. On Monday, President Trump used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters in front of the White House so he could have a photo op of him holding a Bible at St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street. Members of that church were among those teargassed, and their bishop, Rev. Mariann Budde, blasted the president for his blasphemous statements and visit.
Brees, a devout Christian, has appeared on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. Robertson himself denounced Trump’s “law and order” response.
“Is everything right in our country right now? No, it’s not, we still have a long way to go,” Brees said. “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 we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.”
It’s easy to wrap yourself in the flag, to hold a Bible and talk of unity. How will he create unity in a locker room with Jenkins. Another Saint, Mike Freeman, didn’t mention Brees by name but mocked his stance on Twitter.
It’s time for Brees and many, many others to stop talking about “unity” and “respect” and show humility and consider that they’re not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem.
Looking for ways to advocate for black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.