Drew Brees

Don't be distracted by roadblocks to productive dialogue, nuanced conversation

Don't be distracted by roadblocks to productive dialogue, nuanced conversation

The ultimate goals, the basic expectations, are easy enough to see. Justice. Anti-racism. Equality. Love and respect for humanity.

Obvious and uncomplicated, right?

That’s why I’m surprised by some of the twisted things I’ve seen and heard in the last month and a half. It’s been about that long — seven weeks — since George Floyd pleaded for his life in Minneapolis, his neck pinned to the ground for nearly nine minutes under a police officer’s knee.

It was that recorded murder, thoughtless and merciless in high definition, that sparked historic protests here and abroad. Those marches were emphatic, multigenerational, multiethnic rebukes against abuse of power and injustice. Anyone exercising that abuse — and verbally or silently protecting it — is clearly the enemy.

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So how exactly did we get here?

In this climate, how does DeSean Jackson say he stands for love and unity yet get to a place where he’s producing multiple anti-Semitic posts on social media? Even worse, as he apologized for those hateful comments and tried to bury them, a former NBA player wouldn’t let him do it. Instead, Stephen Jackson retrieved them from the trash, gave them value, and added a wilder, more conspiratorial, anti-Semitic commentary on the wealthy Rothschild family.

Nothing good comes from reviving someone else’s deleted posts. And any conversation that leads us away from justice and toward a comparison of atrocities (1619 and the Holocaust) is destined to fall to pieces.

Jackson, a longtime friend of Floyd’s, was eloquent and thoughtful in the days after Floyd’s death. Kendrick Perkins remarked at the time that Jackson’s steadiness and passion seemed to be a divine “calling.” I could see what he meant. But seemingly hours after having that thought, I heard Jackson lecturing Stephen A. Smith because the commentator had the nerve to disagree with Kyrie Irving’s position on an NBA restart. Jackson told Smith that “no Black man” should say what Smith said. Then, condescendingly, he concluded that management — presumably white management — pulled some strings and turned Smith into a puppet.

Apparently, there is just one path to justice, and that single path doesn’t allow Black people to disagree with one another on layered issues. Even if the issue is basketball. Perkins learned that in a painful way when he, too, disagreed with Irving. When Kevin Durant saw Perkins’ criticism of Irving, he called his former teammate a “sell out.”

Justice. Anti-racism. Equality. Love and respect for humanity.

That still is the mission, right? Does it require us all to get there on the same ideological train? Do we all have to sound and think the same to arrive at a place where reasonable people all want to be?

In some ways, history has no precedent for what we’re seeing right now. Some data specialists and pollsters have suggested that the Black Lives Matter protests are the largest in the country’s history. While we haven’t seen that before, we can take some lessons from disagreements in the past. It’s certainly not new for passionate people of conscience to collide on strategy.

In her 2014 movie "Selma," filmmaker Ava DuVernay was able to capture an essential truth from a dramatization. Even as they agreed to march against racism and segregation in Alabama, there was tension between Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) and some members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). King’s group was seen as more deliberate while the youthful SNCC was more urgent.

Combined, the two groups produced some of the country’s most compelling leaders, drafted and ushered in groundbreaking legislation, and organized protests that we still discuss today, including the March on Washington.

King, a Christian, often had sharp philosophical differences with Malcolm X, a Muslim. One man gave us a “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” while the other left a piece of his soul with his autobiography. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve gained insight, and wisdom, from both over the years.

In some ways, clearly, it’s harder to be nuanced with different opinions — or to listen to them at all — today. While the immediacy of social media is its strength and allowed the world to see the Floyd video, it’s the immediacy of our platforms that often derails conversations before we give them context and allow them to develop.

A perfect example from the last seven weeks is the warp speed with which Drew Brees’ image was recreated. He shared his opinion on kneeling for the flag, and I disagreed with what he had to say. But I still wanted to hear him and understand his reasoning. If I were his teammate, I’d be eager to do that away from social media so I could have an authentic — and likely uncomfortable — conversation with him in private.

You know by now that two of his higher-profile teammates, Michael Thomas and Malcolm Jenkins, initially did the opposite. I saw a video where Thomas was applauded for his actions by ... Stephen Jackson.

Meanwhile, it’s been nearly four months since three plainclothes police officers in Louisville entered Breonna Taylor’s apartment after midnight and killed her. She was shot eight times. It was supposedly a drug raid, but there were no drugs. Just a 26-year-old EMT and her boyfriend. No one has been charged with murder.

The enemies are still out there. Let’s keep our eyes on the ultimate prize.

Ben Watson had a 'long conversation' with Drew Brees over protest comments

Ben Watson had a 'long conversation' with Drew Brees over protest comments

The events of the last several weeks have sparked many difficult but necessary conversations.

One involved retired tight end Ben Watson and his former New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.

Brees faced intense backlash last week for saying in an interview with Yahoo! Finance that he'll "never agree with" players who kneel during the national anthem -- a practice Colin Kaepernick started in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality in America -- because he feels it's disrespectful to the flag.

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Brees' comments came shortly after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes in a disturbing example of the police brutality Kaepernick was protesting against.

Brees' seemingly tone-deaf words angered many NFL players, but Watson -- who spent four years as Brees' teammate in New Orleans -- admitted he wasn't surprised.

"I know Drew. We’ve had this conversation before," Watson said Sunday night on the "Double Coverage Podcast" with ex-New England Patriots teammates Jason and Devin McCourty.

"Even though I wasn’t on the team with him in 2016 (when Kaepernick began his protest), I remember this happening and I remember him saying the exact same thing, so I wasn’t surprised."

Watson then revealed he and Brees spoke this past week, and that the veteran QB seemed contrite -- even if his fundamental beliefs haven't changed.

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"I spoke to him. We had a long conversation," Watson said. "He was really beat up about it. He was very remorseful not necessarily for his stance about the flag, but for being tone-deaf when he said it, and for not being able to bring the conversation back to where he could show the empathy that I know that he has."

Brees since has publicly apologized for his comments. Yet more important for Watson -- who in 2015 published a book about race in America titled, "Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race" -- is that Brees understands why his denouncement of Kaepernick's protest is hurtful to Black people.

“Since then he’s apologized and I forgive him for whatever needs to be forgiven," Watson said. "But I think the larger conversation is: 'What has he learned from here? how can he be more empathetic from here? 

" ... He doesn’t have to prove that he loves Black people to anybody. ... He cared before and was doing things in the community. But there has to be a conversation with many of those people who were legitimately, genuinely and rightfully hurt because of who he is and how people, especially in New Orleans, love him and look up to him."

Check out the McCourty twins' full conversation with Watson below:


McCourty twins address Drew Brees' controversial comments, whether they forgive Saints QB

File photo

McCourty twins address Drew Brees' controversial comments, whether they forgive Saints QB

Drew Brees has taken plenty of heat lately due to the comments he made about players "disrespecting the American flag" by kneeling during the national anthem.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback was asked during an interview with Yahoo! Finance about players kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America. Brees answered, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country."

It didn't take long for the veteran QB to get backlash for those insensitive remarks. A number of Brees' NFL peers, including both Devin and Jason McCourty of the New England Patriots, scolded him for his comments.

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On Thursday, the McCourty twins delved deeper into the subject on a special edition of their Double Coverage podcast titled "Bridge To Action." Following an enlightening interview with former FBI special agent M. Quentin Williams, which you can watch below, the McCourtys addressed the Brees situation. 

"Everybody's been in an uproar over Drew Brees' comments, and obviously we've responded on Twitter," said Jason McCourty. "Somebody had asked earlier, 'do we forgive him?' and I don't think any of this thing is about forgiveness. It's not about Drew Brees, it's not about Jason or Devin McCourty, it's about realizing, 'Alright, here's an issue and we need to find a solution for that issue.' Like, you don't have an issue with Drew Brees when he makes those statements. You have an issue with that train of thought, and that thought is what we're trying to move away from.

"So as soon as anyone who has that thought is willing to dive in and learn, and open up dialogue to talk about -- because I think sometimes we subconsciously have thoughts that we don't know we have, and then we say some things that we may have to take some time to go back and self-reflect ... Maybe I need to look inwardly and see like, 'Hey, maybe I'm not looking at this thing the right way. And I think when we're able to do that, there's no animosity or hostility toward anyone because that's not what we're trying to do. It's about there's an issue, and we want to fix this issue."

Devin McCourty doubled down on what his brother had to say and mentioned that he doesn't have anything against Brees. Rather, he hopes this will help the 41-year-old and others like him look at the situation from a different perspective.

"It's not about forgiving or hating," said Devin. "Like, I've never hated Drew Brees. I don't even know Drew Brees. So it was never about that. It was just, how can we get people to now not look through those lenses. And he's a guy who if he doesn't look through those lenses, he can get a lot of other people to feel the same way. So hopefully some good turns out from that."

Brees has since issued an apology for his comments, saying they "lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy."

Beyond the McCourty twins' comments on Brees, their interview with Williams is well worth the watch. Williams is the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Dedication to Community, whose mission is to "empower individuals and communities to achieve their business and societal goals through the spirit of entrepreneurial enterprise and community advocacy. The McCourtys and Williams had a mindful conversation about the recent killings of unarmed black men, the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, and the next steps to implementing positive change in the United States.