Human nature is a powerful, if unstoppable, force.
Just look at the way people have collectively fought back against the coronavirus pandemic for the past three months … and at the way people have reacted so passionately to the disgusting injustice that ended George Floyd’s life on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
That’s why, despite all of the unquestioned good he’s done off the field and his remarkable records on it, there’s reason to believe Drew Brees will never come back from the events of Wednesday.
The remarks the Saints star quarterback made in an otherwise innocuous interview with Yahoo Finance on Wednesday have, in the minds of many (most importantly his own teammates), forever changed the way he’ll be perceived.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,’’ Brees told the website. “What you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity.”
Brees was answering a question related to the 2016 protests of Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who famously knelt during the national anthem in protest to a criminal justice system that he believed showed no justice to black men.
It was an answer that — until he issued a heartfelt apology on Instagram Thursday morning — looked like it might have changed Brees’ life forever and has damaged his leadership of a locker room that, in the immediate aftermath of his comments, sounded like it was in revolt.
“Drew Brees, if you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem,’’ Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said through tears in a powerful four-minute, 20-second video he posted on Instagram Wednesday. “Even though we’re teammates, I can’t let this slide.”
The fallout from inside the Saints locker room did not end with Jenkins.
Michael Thomas, the Saints’ top receiver and reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, mocked his quarterback with a series of Twitter posts, including: “He don’t know no better.”
Emmanuel Sanders, another of Brees’ receivers, tweeted: “Smh.. Ignorant.”
Those sentiments left you to wonder how Brees can possibly recover from this when he’s lost some of the most important people inside his own locker room, when the success of every NFL team is weighted so heavily on the brotherhood of the men who occupy that room and fight for each other?
Human nature being what it is, will the Saints offensive line protect him with the same fight they used to?
Will Thomas and Sanders and the rest of the receiving corps be as willing to risk their well-being going over the middle to make the tough catches?
Facing these critical issues, Brees, in his day-after apology, acknowledged that he “completely missed the mark” with his comments and asked for “forgiveness.”
Saints linebacker Demario Davis, one of the team leaders in New Orleans, quickly responded to his quarterback’s apology on CNN and praised him for “taking ownership” of his mistake, saying it displayed “a form of true leadership.”
Thomas, too, took to Twitter to accept Brees’ apology.
Brees better hope this is the start of some needed healing. But questions — and possible skepticism — will follow Brees despite the apology. Cynics might wonder if the apology was simply more of a reaction to the heavy blowback he was receiving.
So, with the Brees apology and a leader like Davis coming out in public acceptance of it, where this leaves Brees’ status inside the Saints locker room still is yet to be determined. His words cut deep for many of his teammates, some of whom might be less apt to embrace his apology the way Davis did.
You know how Brees validates his apology? Kneel alongside his teammates during the national anthem on game day.
There are so many shames to this, beginning with the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of a racist bone in Brees’ body.
It’s a shame that Brees, based on his original comments, cannot seem to bring himself to see the views of his teammates and the hardships they’ve endured as black men that are impossible for him to understand as a white man.
It’s a shame that Brees’ reputation may forever be stained after all of the overwhelming good he’s done as a fabric of the New Orleans community — donating more money in times of need, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, than most Americans earn in their lifetimes.
“(Bleep) Drew Brees,” some people in New Orleans chanted during protests on Wednesday.
Considering what Brees has meant to and done for New Orleans, those chants were as distasteful as this entire issue.
But the sad reality for Brees is this: It’s possible that nothing — not the 163 wins, six division titles and one Super Bowl victory he’s led the Saints to in his brilliant career, nor the 547 touchdowns he’s thrown, nor 77,416 yards he’s thrown for — will be enough to help him overcome this.
Because based on the vitriolic fallout from his comments — most particularly from the sanctuary of his own locker room — human nature may prove to be the toughest defense he’s ever faced.
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