When Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest racial inequality and police brutality, many took issue with his protests by approaching it from their own contexts.
And while Kaepernick made it clear his issue wasn’t with the military — in fact, he switched from sitting to kneeling immediately after talking with former Green Beret Nate Boyer — that became the straw man that many latched onto to make it a national issue.
His stance hasn’t changed, now that the possibility returns that more players might want to take a knee.
“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. “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. 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.”
That’s absolutely Brees’ perspective, and he’s within his rights to stand proudly. That opinion may not be shared by others, perhaps including his teammates.
Given the added symbolism that “taking a knee” has gained following the death of George Floyd, it seems certain that it will remain a topic that brings anything but unity.