Wednesday’s on-camera comments from Saints quarterback Drew Brees sparked a loud and sustained reaction, prompting Brees to issue a written apology on Thursday. There is one important question that is unanswered by the apology, when comparing the apology to the original comments.
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem,” Brees says in his written apology, “I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.”
In the specific context of the apology, it works. When compared to the original comments, it’s a little confusing.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said Wednesday when asked whether more players will kneel during the anthem in light of recent events.
Did “never” not mean never? Or does he now, less than a day after reiterating his position first articulated nearly four years ago, believe that kneeling during the anthem does not amount to disrespecting the flag?
It’s an important question that Brees needs to answer in order to fully and fairly process his apology. Ideally, he’ll do so not in a written statement but in the same format that the original comments were delivered, on camera and speaking extemporaneously, giving teammates, fans, media, anyone a chance to hear the words, study the facial expressions and the demeanor, and ultimately conclude whether he has sufficiently explained how and why he decided to abandon in less than 24 hours comments that reflected his clear, unambiguous, and supposedly permanent beliefs on the question of whether kneeling in peaceful protest during the anthem amounts to disrespect of the of the flag.
If he still believes that kneeling amounts to disrespect, some would say his apology is hollow. If, as the argument would go, he still believes that kneeling amounts to disrespect, then he still believes, even after recent events, that Kaepernick’s methods supersede a message that we all should have heeded in 2016.
So that’s the next step in this. If, as he seems to believe, his words were not “perceived” correctly, Brees needs to explain, not in writing but with his own voice, whether he still believes that kneeling reflects disrespect to the flag, or whether the events that unfolded on Wednesday have caused him to abandon that view.
If it’s the latter, Brees should consider taking the message once step farther and declaring with passion and conviction that anyone who believes that kneeling during the anthem constitutes disrespect should change their views in the same way that he has, and should embrace the message that Kaepernick was trying to send but that was lost in the presumption that his protest was about something that it was not.