New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees reminded us all on Wednesday that while he is certainly a spectacular athlete beloved by pro football fans all over the country—he’s still white. Not just white, but white and out of touch. So out of touch, in fact, that he resurrected crusty old narratives from 2016 about how kneeling during the national anthem disrespects the flag, the troops and the nation.
During an interview with Yahoo Finance, Brees was asked how the NFL should respond if players started kneeling during the anthem in protest of police brutality and systemic racism—as many did during the 2016 movement inspired by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick—in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Brees responded by declaring that he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Brees elaborated on his stance in a way that his Caucasian mind must have thought would elicit feelings of patriotism and empathy for people who get their star-spangled boxer briefs all in a bunch over silent protests during a song that, frankly, doesn’t even slap.
“Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States,” Brees continued. “I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. 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, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have 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.”
Notice that, outside of a passing reference to the civil rights movement (because obviously Martin and Malcolm were all about honoring the flag of the country where they were murdered while fighting oppression), Brees made no mention of racism or police brutality. Instead, he did the wypipo thing and centered himself, his family and his beloved American traditions, which he believes are entitled to recognition and celebration. Even worse? He caps it all off with the oblivious-white-people proverb: “We are all in this together.”
Of course, his comments drew plenty of backlash—much of which came from fellow athletes.
Brees’ own teammate, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins was having none of Brees’ white nonsense.
“Drew Brees, if you don’t understand how hurtful and insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem,” Jenkins said in an Instagram video. “To think that because your grandfathers served this country and you have a great respect for your flag that everyone else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do is ridiculous, and it shows that you don’t know history. Because when our grandfathers fought for this country and served and they came back, they didn’t come back to a hero’s welcome. They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. They came back to people, to racism, to complete violence.”
Eventually, Brees took to Instagram to issue an apology.
Accompanied by a photo of interracial interlocking hands (which should probably be on the official well-meaning-but-still-ultimately-fucking-clueless-white-people flag), Brees wrote, “In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”