At the time, when Saints quarterback Drew Brees suffered his ordeal after committing the unpardonable sin of objecting to his fellow NFL players kneeling while the national anthem was played before games, I gave Brees a bit of a pass for his subsequent groveling and obsequious apologies.
I did that, even though Brees and his wife completely shamed themselves in essentially repudiating any sense of American patriotism they had professed all their lives.
What I saw in Brees’ crawfishing antics was someone, who had announced he was coming back for one more shot at that elusive, Hall of Fame-clinching second Super Bowl ring, a mark of greatness many of the game’s best quarterbacks could never achieve, finding that final season in jeopardy thanks to blowback from something he said which was absolutely blameless. And Brees, who has worked all his life for this one last go at greatness (only 12 quarterbacks in NFL history have won more than one Super Bowl; he would make 13), made the decision he would do whatever it took to preserve that chance.
Taking a firm position in defense of the flag and the legacy of his grandfathers who fought in World War II, it looked very clear, would make Brees a divisive figure in the Saints’ locker room after he’d spend 14 years as its unquestioned leader.
And when the Saints’ management refused to back the face of the franchise for taking a position it’s very clear the majority of the team’s fan base shares, Brees could see that he was badly outnumbered and without support from the people he needed, particularly in that locker room.
The Saints, after all, had signed Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most committed public social justice warriors in the NFL and one of the least interested in just playing football. And immediately after Brees said he wasn’t for kneeling, Jenkins embarked on very public histrionics which signaled that Saints Drive would now be a war zone.
When other prominent players like Cameron Jordan, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara similarly publicly trashed Brees and when almost nobody on the team publicly backed him, the reality of the situation couldn’t be any clearer than if it was up on the Superdome scoreboard.
At that point, Brees had two choices. He could swallow his pride and grovel for his teammates in an effort to make peace and save a chance of a cohesive locker room, something which could make the difference between a team with no other apparent weaknesses heading into the 2020 season winning a title, or not.
Or he could cash in his chips, say that since he doesn’t need the money anymore and he’s offended by the idea that standing for principle and patriotism makes him a racist in current NFL parlance, and retire.
For somebody like Brees, who has been more driven by the pursuit of professional success than almost anybody in sports – Brees’ work ethic outstrips just about anybody and it’s recognized as the reason he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league even past 40 years old – the idea of quitting over a political disagreement would have been unthinkable.
I can respect that. He’s mission-driven. When you’re mission-driven you will sacrifice anything to accomplish the mission. People will let their marriages go to seed, they’ll ignore their kids, they’ll break the law, they’ll spend themselves into penury. For Brees, sacrificing the family legacy and the definition of patriotism he was born with probably wasn’t really even much of a consideration. It was more like “well, if this is going to get in the way of the mission, maybe I’m wrong.”
And once you question your principles, when your perception is that those principles are in the way of what you want, it’s really pretty easy to justify abandoning them. Particularly when there is nobody in your circle arguing for preserving them and nobody willing to stand with you on them, which in the Saints’ organization there wasn’t.
So Brees bent the knee. And when he did, he was no longer his own man. He’s now owned lock, stock and barrel by the social justice crowd.
So much so that last week, when the sports world went completely off the deep end in support of Jacob Blake at a time when it was becoming clear the Kenosha police shooting victim was anything but the innocent he’d been made out to be, Brees joined in.
The truth about Blake makes Drew Brees’ decision to tape Jacob Blake on his helmet for a woke photo op during practice last week look absolutely beneath contempt.
Police reports released last week indicate that the initial story Blake was on the scene where a 911 call had been made in order to break up a domestic dispute was a lie. The Kenosha cops were called because of Blake. And why? Because he was bullying an ex-girlfriend who had already filed a restraining order against him for having committed sexual battery against her, and in fact had a warrant out for his arrest on charges she had filed.
He came to her house and he took her car keys. Three of their children were in the back seat of the car. Think about that. He could well have been about to kidnap her children.
The police came and Blake proceeded to fight them, at one point pulling one of the cops into a headlock. He was tased; it didn’t phase him. He walked around the car despite the cops commanding him to stop, and he reached into the driver’s seat despite a policeman attempting to restrain him by his shirt.
A knife was found on the floor of the driver’s seat. It isn’t known whether Blake had it during the melee with the police – video of the incident indicates he had something in his left hand, though whether it was the knife or not is a question. Blake might have been reaching for the knife in the car when he was shot.
Under no circumstances is Jacob Blake, who also faced five criminal charges from an incident in September 2015, including resisting an officer, disorderly conduct and three gun-related charges after police were called about a bar fight involving Blake and subsequently pulled him over, the kind of martyr Drew Brees should be mooning for.
But Brees is no longer his own man. He’s essentially Malcolm Jenkins’ man now. Having surrendered his principles in order to make peace in that locker room Drew Brees is now on a string, forced to dance to whatever tune the social justice machine plays. If that means making a statement on behalf of Jacob Blake, he’ll do it. What else he’ll have to do, who knows.
Brees sold his soul for a shot at the Super Bowl. Maybe it’ll work out for him. But when this season is over, he’s going to have to face the fact he sacrificed a large part of who he was simply for a professional accolade his legacy didn’t even require. And he’ll never get that back.
For those of us who idolized the man Drew Brees used to be, it’s awfully hard to go this extra mile. Most of us have already decided we won’t.
Best of luck, Drew. Don’t be surprised when the noise of the cheering crowd is a lot quieter than you hoped.