Brees had it right: Anthem is a time for unity, not protest!by J.W. Miller on 09/25/17
On Thursday, I got a call from Doug Mouton, an old friend who is sports director of WWL-TV, asking if I would appear on the station’s popular “Fourth Down on Four” Sunday after the Saints game. I couldn’t turn him down because Doug’s been a friend since I came to the Saints at a time he was laboring at the bottom of the TV sports spectrum as a cameraman. Plus, a little visibility helps sell books as well as infusing some credibility into my website, speaking engagements and family discussions.
I committed, not knowing exactly what line of questioning he would ask, although I had a pretty good idea. With the Saints struggling the first two games and headed to Carolina in Week 3, it was inevitable that the line of questioning after a third straight loss would go like this: “Can the season be saved?” “Should Sean Payton be fired?” “Should Tom Benson clean house?” “What would you do if it was your decision?” I was contemplating how I could diplomatically answer such questions, which were the same questions being asked in every barroom, social event and faculty lounge in Who Dat Nation, when, suddenly, the discussion changed.
Our Commander in Tweet notified America that NFL owners should fire “every son of a bitch” who did not stand for the national anthem. President Trump’s ire was directed at the movement began by QB Colin Kaepernick last season when he kneeled during the national anthem in protest of alleged police abuse of minority offenders. Since then, it’s not been uncommon to see a couple or a handful of players use the same gesture to protest inequality between the races or sexes or anything else they deem offensive. But in the space of 24 hours, Steph Curry said he had no interest in having the NBA champion Warriors honored at the White House, an invitation that was quickly rescinded. The University of North Carolina's NCAA champions followed suit, declining the same invitation, ostensibly because of “scheduling” problems.
The snowball kept growing as the President’s words prompted NFL owners, executives, coaches and players, up to and including Roger Goodell, to express outrage. Of course, players being players, they used the grand stage with protests ranging from locking arms on the sidelines during the anthem to remaining in the locker room until the song was over. So, all of a sudden, the big news that demanded comment on my little television show was not the Saints snapping out of their lethargy, but about nearly every single team expressing rejection of the President’s words.
So, I began pondering answers to the new line of questioning I feared that I would face. I’m a traditionalist who took offense at Kaepernick’s protest because I believe that fans attend games or tune in to see football and not a political protest. But I also know that sporting events have been co-opted before to drive home one point or another and that Democracy did not crumble because of it. I was still contemplating profound messages while driving down to the studio Sunday, with one ear to the Saints post-game show.
Unexpectedly, I heard words that I could agree with from QB Drew Brees. He was asked about the day’s activities, and after acknowledging he did not agree with the President’s words, which were “unbecoming to the office of the President of the United States,” he said something that should have been said the first time Kaepernick got his knees dirty.
“I will always feel that if you are an American the national anthem is an opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and show respect for our country and to show respect for what it stands for,” Brees said. “But if the protest becomes that we are going to sit down or kneel and not show respect to the United States of America and everything that it symbolizes, and everything that it stands for, and everything our country has been through to get to this point, I don’t agree with that … Looking at the flag with your hand over your heart is a unifying thing that should bring us all together and say, ‘You know what, we know what things are not where they should be, but we will continue to work and strive to make things better and bring equality to all people.’ … I will always believe that we should be standing and showing respect to our flag with our hand over our heart.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. And, for that reason, by prearrangement Doug Mouton’s questions to me on “Fourth Down on Four” were strictly about the suddenly revived Saints.