When turning on your television or logging on to any social media platform, you are more than likely to have your broadcasts and timelines flooded with videos of protests, violence, anger, sorrow, frustration, injustices, debates and disagreements. These are all things that have stemmed from the disturbing deaths of unarmed people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The internet can be hectic place, but in my opinion, frustration, conversation, and appropriate action are absolutely necessary.
People of color have been wrongfully discriminated against for centuries. Although concerns have been raised, not a whole lot has been done to combat the injustices that minorities face in this country. The disturbing death of George Floyd, which was caught on video, seemed to have been a breaking point for those in this country who have become rightfully frustrated with law enforcement officers abusing their power, especially with people of color.
In the past week, cities across the nation and the world have let their anger and frustration be known more than ever. It is impossible to ignore the peaceful protests in American cities. It is also impossible to ignore the destruction that some of these cities are enduring by the hands of third party groups trying to incite violence and chaos.
Because frustrated and concerned groups and individuals have become so vocal, major companies and celebrities have felt the need to address their consumers, fans and audiences. One thing that has been pretty consistent with these public statements is that they are denouncing racism and discrimination. New Orleans Saints quarterback and future NFL Hall of Famer Drew Brees has made his own statements in the past few days where he denounces racism and discrimination, but when asked about players peacefully protesting during the National Anthem in an interview with Yahoo Finance, he stirred up plenty of controversy.
It has been well documented that protesting during the National Anthem garnered tons of controversy for several different reasons. The obvious reason is that there are countless people who serve our country and have even given their lives to protect our freedom. Veterans and their families may find it offensive. The other reason is because of the man who started the anthem protest in the first place, Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick's decision to start protesting was initially so controversial because, not only was he breaking tradition, but also because of his contract situation with the San Francisco 49ers at the time. When Kaepernick first decided to kneel during the National Anthem in 2016, he was entering the final season of his contract and was coming off of a 6-10 last place record. After two years of team record decline, the 49ers front office made it clear that Kaepernick would be competing to keep his job and that a long-term, top paying contract would more than likely not be offered to him once he reached free agency. Critics feel as if Kaepernick used social injustice and a controversial protest as a publicity stunt scapegoat tactic as to why he received contract offers of substantially less money than what he was expecting and why he didn't sign with another NFL team ever again, even after being benched and being the starting quarterback for one of the two total 49er wins in the 2016 season.
Nevertheless, Kaepernick sparked a conversation and lead several other players from around the NFL to join him in kneeling during the anthem.
In the past week, Kaepernick's name was making its rounds across social media platforms, saying that peaceful protests were tried, but were obviously unsuccessful in achieving criminal and social justice reform. During Wednesday's interview, Brees was asked about the peaceful anthem protests, and it is clear that he is one of many who found it wrong.
In the interview, Brees continued to state his stance against racism and his support for the Black community during these trying times. Brees then went on to say that he will "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America." Brees cited that his grandfathers risked their lives for the country and that there are countless others who continue to do so to this day.
Brees was immediately met with backlash from, not only fans and players who supported and even participated in the protests in 2016, but nearly all of his current Saints teammates.
The most emotional messages made against Brees and his comments came from current teammate Malcolm Jenkins. In a series of Instagram videos, Jenkins explains that the peaceful protests were never about disrespecting those serving in uniform, but rather to shine a light of those being disrespected in the United States because of the color of their skin.
Jenkins went on to say that Brees' grandfathers serving in the military was only an excuse. Jenkins explained that his grandparents served in the military as well, but did not receive the usual hero's welcome because of the fact that they were Black.
Jenkins' videos were filled with strong language, but his point was clear and extremely valid and understandable. There is very good reason as to why Brees' comments upset him and plenty of others, but there is a problem with many of the responses too.
Brees was trending number one on Twitter for almost the entire day on Wednesday after the interview with Yahoo Finance was released. When I clicked on his name in the trending section, it was filled with some terrible things, like people wishing injury upon him, calling him expletives, and claiming that he was a racist.
I have watched football for almost my entire life and have been a huge fan of Brees for a very long time, and I strongly believe that he is a not a racist or a bad person at all. I'm certain that other fans from across the league agree with that.
During his tenure with the New Orleans Saints, Brees has won over the hearts and admiration of hundreds of thousands of people. Brees' community service efforts throughout the state of Louisiana earned him one of the most prestigious awards that the NFL has to offer, the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Brees has been around people of color for the majority of his career and life and is known for giving back to a city and state that he has called home for over 14 years in times of need, such as the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and COVID-19 pandemic. I fail to believe that he is a racist man considering all he has done to help a community that has a majority Black population.
In that now infamous interview with Yahoo Finance, Brees never said anything racist and he has proved over the years that he is a supporter of the Black community through his service and donations to local organizations.
It is obvious that Brees missed the point with his comments about the anthem protests. The American flag clearly doesn't mean the same thing to everybody as it does to him and most other white people. He failed to understand that, and even if he was one of the critics who found Colin Kaepernick's protest to be some sort of a publicity stunt and viewed it as a sign of disrespect, it wasn't a stunt for the other Black players around the league who demonstrated during the anthem back in 2016.
Drew Brees was wrong in his comments, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be vilified. He can surely be criticized, but he is not a villain. One mistake or misunderstanding, even though it is a very controversial one, should not overshadow all that Brees has done in years past. Drew Brees' lifelong work should not be erased because of some ignorant and uneducated comments that he made. I believe that Brees has always had a good heart and has had good intentions, he just unfortunately is misunderstanding a major part of this Black Lives Matter movement that is sweeping the nation.
I know I'm not in a position to tell people how to react, I just simply believe that some of his teammates' responses were wrong. Saints players Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders all unfollowed Brees on all social media platforms immediately after his comments were made public.
I disagree with this because this is a sign of forgetting and dismissing all that Brees has done throughout his career for the New Orleans community. As I said before, Brees' comments were extremely ignorant, but that doesn't mean that he has a bad heart or that his intentions are wrong.
These same players have expressed in the past how great of a guy Drew Brees is, but now, before even having a chance for them all to come together and speak, they are willing to break their bond with the man.
If you are unaware, the person writing this is a Mexican man who has a very light complexion. People who meet me and see me usually tend to assume that I am a white man. I have never experienced the pain that other people of color experience everyday in this county just because their skin color is darker than mine. I am frustrated by our nation's law enforcement abusing their power, but I will never be as frustrated as a Black man.
I can only assume what people of color are feeling after hearing Brees' comments. His teammates are clearly upset with the comments and may not know how to properly address their anger with a man that they have become very close with. Unfollowing him is not how they should properly address and solve the situation.
In the past couple of days, one of the messages that I constantly see on social media platforms is for people to listen and educate themselves. I find it surprising and disappointing that a guy with such great character as Drew Brees failed to do just that and went on to have such tone-deaf comments. Although many of us can agree that he should be well aware of the situation at hand, he is obviously not, but that doesn't mean that those close to him should keep trying.
It's disappointing, I know, but what use is it to "cancel" the man after all the good he has done and cut ties with him instead of engaging in more important conversations regarding race relations in our nation?
People like Brees, although they are good at heart, are a part of the problem. Not realizing the privilege that he and other individuals have is part of the problem. How can we solve that problem, though? Certainly not through ignoring the man, cutting ties with him or just yelling bad things at him. Change starts with meaningful conversation.
An example I have of this working is when African American blues musician Daryl Davis goes out and speaks with members of the Ku Klux Klan. Davis is famous for befriending over 200 members of the KKK and convincing them to give that ideology and lifestyle up.
As a Black man, it would've been easy for Davis to to take the regular route of simply proclaiming how terrible the KKK is and to fight back with anger and violence, but Davis sits with these men and talks to them. They may become angry or uncomfortable, but eventually they will learn how to be accepting and become less ignorant on the basis of race.
Now, Drew Brees is certainly not any sort of white nationalist or alt-right group member, but he is a man who is misunderstanding something extremely important. Brees' coaches, teammates, friends and family will surely have an easier time convincing him on something much less extreme than KKK beliefs, which is why it's not always a good idea to turn your back with people with different beliefs as you.
Brees' issue is with the flag, and that is an issue that seems pretty damn solvable, in my opinion. Cancelling anybody and everybody who has even the slightest of different views eliminates any chance of progress.
Hall of Fame football coach Tony Dungy, who was the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl, went on the Pat McAfee Show Thursday morning and delivered a powerful message. "... We can't be afraid to say 'ok I don't agree with you, but let's talk about this.' We can't just say anytime something happens we don't agree with 'Hey, I'm done with that and this person.' That doesn't make sense."
I, like most others, want to see progress in this country. Instead of building up your anger and frustrations and expressing it in a violent or dismissive manner, use it to continue spreading knowledge and information. I know it's much easier said than done.