New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees made the mistake Wednesday of expressing his true feelings about his love and respect for the American flag, telling Yahoo Sports that he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” Both of his grandfathers served in WWII.
He said he takes a lot of pride in their service and respects their sacrifice and the sacrifices that have been made over the last several decades in America since the Civil Rights era and beyond. He went on to state that even though America had come a long way on race, that we still had a long way to go.
“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,” he concluded.
In my opinion, there was nothing wrong with what he said. But for stating his pride in the American flag, Brees was put on notice that he just does not “get it”, especially at a racially sensitive time when there are protests across America over the death of George Floyd, which happened after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Brees ended up apologizing after the outrage expressed by multiple big-name sports figures including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. “In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused,” Brees said.
His apology, of course, will not be enough, but not every sports figure is on board with continuing to punish the Super Bowl-winning QB. Here’s what former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy had to say in response to Brees’s comments and the backlash that followed (bolded emphasis added):
“We have to have Drew Brees saying what he said. I don’t downgrade Drew for that, okay? That’s what he said. He may not totally understand. It may have been not exactly the way he wanted to express it. But he can’t be afraid to say that and we can’t be afraid to say, ‘Okay Drew, I don’t agree with you, but let’s talk about this and let’s sit down and talk about it.’ We can’t just say any time something happens and we don’t agree with it, ‘Hey I’m done with that and I’m done with this person.’ That doesn’t make sense. We have to be better than that.”
"@drewbrees can't be afraid to say that and 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"
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) June 4, 2020
Dungy went on to say that he would have a civil conversation with Brees explaining why he disagrees with him:
“I would speak to Drew as a friend and hopefully some of those guys on that team have done that. There’s some hurt there that goes beyond the flag. My dad was a veteran and he wouldn’t have taken these protests as disrespect for the flag, he would have taken it as people trying to make a change in our great country for the better.”
“I’d tell Drew that my dad served in the military for this country….. and when he came back from the war, he wasn’t able to ride the bus in certain places…. there’s some real hurt there that goes beyond the flag ” ~ @TonyDungy pic.twitter.com/MIn2agb8I2
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) June 4, 2020
In other words, hey, it’s okay to disagree, buddy. Doesn’t make you the worst person in the world.
Dungy’s comments should really make a lot of people – liberals and conservatives alike – think about how to approach disagreement on controversial issues going forward. Democrats are unquestionably the kings of cancel culture, but Republicans are not totally innocent on that front, either.
Colin Kaepernick’s flag-kneeling stirred up a lot of emotions and anger from people from all walks of life, and I strongly disagreed with him doing it. I don’t have much respect for him at all, but next time this issue comes up, instead of getting politicians involved and demanding conduct changes in the NFL, as is what happened at the time, anyone who disagrees with it can strongly voice their opinion on the matter and then proceed to either continue watching once they’ve said their piece, change the channel or just stop watching sports programming altogether, and let the chips fall where they may.