Why Drew Brees Was Right

Screenshot of Drew Brees's Instagram apology.

Drew Brees touched off a major controversy last week when he told Yahoo Finance that, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” 

The next day he apologized on Instagram writing that “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.”

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I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. 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. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

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I’m a pastor in the city that Drew Brees calls home and it’s from this perspective that I say Drew Brees’ comments were right. 

His comments were right not only because he spoke from his heart but because his comments, especially given the fact that they were made in the midst of everything that’s going on in our country, reveal what most white people believe in their hearts. 

In a well known speech from 1963, Malcom X explained why he believed that white liberals, who, “[sell] themselves to the Negro as a friend of the Negro” were more dangerous than the white conservative: 

“The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling.

I don’t know how Drew Brees identifies himself politically, but the point I want to make is that he was being more honest than some of his more powerful and influential white counterparts. Drew Brees’s comments were honest so I didn’t think he should apologize. 

We need more of the Drew Breeses of the world to speak up—then maybe we’d get somewhere. His comments were right because he’s speaking from his experience as a white man in America. His comments didn’t take me by surprise, they’re to be expected. Unlike my sons Solomon, Julian and Silas, his sons will never have to be taught how to act if they’re pulled over or approached by police. His sons will never have to understand what it means to live life as a target or as a “thing.” His daughters will not grow up with the struggles associated with being a Black woman in America. 

Drew Brees said what he believed and he should be commended. I can work with men like him because I know where he stands. As my Christian brother I have no problem with his comment because I understand why he made them. His comments—including his apology—were not only an expression of his favored place as an admired rich white man in America, but they were also a reflection of what he hears preached from the pulpit and what he and his family are taught in Bible study and Sunday school.  

To my Black and Brown brothers and sisters: Drew Brees is right. His comments shouldn’t upset us, they were honest. He said what other white Christians believe but are too afraid to say. For Christians like Drew Brees and others whom we admire, being a Christian and being an American are the same. 

As a Christian leader I understand and teach that being a Christian and being an American are not the same. However, I appreciate the fact that Drew Brees has shown me, once again, that there are those, some of whom are white, who believe differently. Drew Brees is right but there is a difference between being right and being righteous. His statement and subsequent apology may have been right but they were certainly not righteous.