Update: After Drew Brees faced considerable backlash for his comments regarding players kneeling during the national anthem and “disrespecting the flag,” he issued an apology. In response to that, Donald Trump tweeted that the New Orleans Saints quarterback “should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.”
Hours later, Brees posted the following letter, addressed directly to Trump, to Instagram. “Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities,” he wrote.
“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?”
He continued, “We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”
Read his post below.
During a video interview with Yahoo, Brees was asked what he thought about players kneeling during the national anthem when the NFL season starts. He responded: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” Not only did his response come across as incredibly tone-deaf considering the current climate, it caught the attention of James, who has been a leading voice among athletes in the struggle for equality and the fight to end police brutality in the United States.
LeBron retweeted the clip, adding: “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 men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitement (sic). He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you.”
Brees’ comment is symptomatic of the misplaced energy of many white Americans, who feel personally attacked whenever a person of color uses his or her platform to protest against social injustice. It’s a glaring example of how Colin Kaepernick’s protest has been woefully misunderstood and how the narrative has been hijacked.
Protesting police brutality is not anti-America — police brutality should not be tolerated at all, period. If anything, taking the knee is a peaceful attempt to make America (and the world) a better place. But by misplacing the significance of NFL players kneeling in solidarity with BIPOCs and rather transferring it to a discussion about the American flag and the military, the spotlight is being taken off the actual issue at hand — that people of color are far more likely to be killed by the police in America than white people are.
For the most part, James’ tweet was well-received on Twitter, with several veterans coming out in support of the NBA player. There is a lot of work to be done, particularly by those enjoying the systemic privilege. James’ tweet is an example of that privilege being checked. Long may that continue.