By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s fairly evident these days — on social media, on the streets of most American cities, and just about everywhere else — that things are changing with regard to the way people view racism and police brutality in the country. The world of sports has seen a tremendous shift in the past 10 days, with nearly every team and countless athletes speaking out after the murder of George Floyd.
That figures to be a prominent story for the NFL, and not just this week or this month. The NFL was of course at the center of “controversy” when Colin Kaepernick and a handful of other players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem, a situation that grew exponentially after the president of the United States referred to any player engaging in such activity to be a “son of a bitch.”
That incident led to hundreds of players around the league taking a knee during the national anthem. And the current state of affairs might suggest that a similar response is in store this coming fall.
If that’s the case, despite all of the viewpoints changing around the country, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees still cannot support the act.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about "players kneeling again when the NFL season starts."@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020
Brees went on to say that when he sees the flag and hears the national anthem, he thinks about his two grandfathers who were veterans of the armed services.
“So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed,” Brees said. “And not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s, and everyone and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.”
Brees noted that everything is not right in America, “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 that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.”
Brees’ commentary is sure to draw attention, most notably because those who participated in the silent protests always stated unequivocally that the kneeling was not done in order to disrespect the flag or the military. In fact, it was former Green Beret Nate Boyer who helped Kaepernick decide upon the kneeldown instead of sitting during the anthem.
“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer explained in 2016. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security. … I got called a lot of things from both sides. I was told I was a disgrace to the green beret by a couple Green Berets, one of ’em I was friends with. And that hurts, you know? It really does. But then I also had a lot of people in the military and people in special forces that said, ‘Man, I hadn’t really thought about that before. And I think you’re onto something.'”
The protests were always about using that particular moment to shine light on the important issue of racial inequality in America. Had the protests taken place away from the public eye, or during a moment when attention was not focused squarely on the players, then they would not have generated the same level of attention.
Of course, the reaction to those protests tended to be in line with what Brees is currently saying.
Back in 2017, Brees joined his teammates in taking a knee before the playing of the national anthem prior to their game in London. The team then stood up together with their arms linked for the playing of the anthem. The week prior, 10 Saints players had taken a knee during the anthem.
Just like Kaepernick and the hundreds of other NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem, Brees is allowed to have his own opinion and share his own feelings about how to conduct oneself during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. His voicing of his opinion is likely to inspire some conversations with teammates. Surely, that is something that will take place around the league throughout the summer. Just as surely, the topic will remain a major American talking point throughout the fall and become a point of debate and discussion through another presidential election cycle.