New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and other Saints players were seen wearing Jacob Blake’s name on their helmets during practice on August 27. Blake was shot by Kenosha, WI police officers who were reportedly trying to arrest him for violating a restraining order in an incident that may have included sexual assault.
The display of solidarity is a switch from early June, when Brees upset and angered teammates by suggesting that he disagreed with those who choose to kneel during the national anthem. But the move is an over-correction.
Flag comments sparked controversy, then apology
In a June interview with Yahoo Finance, Brees said that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag.”
Brees said at the time that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the country, but “I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and we are all part of the solution.”
Brees did a 180 soon after and posted an apology to Instagram, in which he said that his comments 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.”
Brees went on to express support for reform, saying that:
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.
It’s fully possible Brees learned more about the issue and had a genuine change of heart, so there’s no reason to assume he caved to pressure. Or he may have decided that showing solidarity with his friends and teammates is more important than defending his criticism of those who kneel during the national anthem. There are, after all, plenty of legitimate things to criticize about the criminal justice system in this country. But lionizing Jacob Blake by wearing his name goes too far, and disrespects victims of sexual assault.
Blake accused of sexual assault
According to the New York Post, the officers were attempting to arrest Blake, “for violating a restraining order stemming from an alleged sexual assault” when the shooting occurred.
The paper further reports that the criminal complaint related to this incident alleges that Blake digitally sexually assaulted the woman, sniffed his fingers, and then said, “Smells like you’ve been with other men.”
Blake survived the shooting but may be permanently paralyzed as a result. Police had been responding to a call from the alleged victim and Blake resisted arrest.
Blake is entitled to the presumption of innocence until he is found guilty in a court of law. It’s important to wait for the results of the official investigation before jumping to conclusions. But that’s why it’s also a horrendously bad idea to lionize him by making him out to be a martyr of overzealous police officers. If the accusations against him are true, and the police action was justified, then how must it feel to be the victim of sexual assault, seeing professional athletes wear Blake’s name on their helmet? It wasn’t that long ago that our country was having a national conversation about sexual assault.
#BlackLivesMatter apparently trumps #MeToo.
Lionizing Blake is a mistake. Brees got this one wrong.