By Ken Reed
Drew Brees’ recent comments about his belief that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespecting the flag, the military and war vets caused an uproar far beyond the world of sports in this country.
Brees strongly believes that kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to the flag and what it stands for.
I’ll get back to Brees in a minute, but I think there are a couple relevant questions here: 1) What exactly does the flag stand for? and 2) Are there a number of ways Americans are disrespecting the flag?
As I’ve written before, I think the flag represents American ideals, many outlined in some of our most important documents. For example: From our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” From our Constitution: To “establish justice” From our Pledge of Allegiance: “… with liberty and justice for all …” From the First Amendment: “… freedom of speech …”
As a country, we fall well short of those ideals on a regular basis. So, can’t it be argued that we are disrespecting the flag every time we do so?
If Drew Brees wants to publicly state that he believes kneeling during the anthem is disrespecting the flag so be it. That’s his First Amendment right and I don’t think he should be told to “shut the f-up” for expressing his thoughts. That gets us nowhere.
Personally, I think Brees’ comments showed a lack of awareness about what the Colin Kaepernick kneeling protests were all about (police brutality and social injustice; not the flag, the military or war vets) and a lack of sensitivity to the concerns of black Americans, including many of his teammates.
And I would point out to Mr. Brees that there are a lot of things Americans do that I — and many Americans — believe are disrespectful to the flag, and the American ideals it represents.
Marcus Thompson II had a very thoughtful essay in The Athletic the other day. In part of it, he took a deep dive into this whole “disrespecting the flag” issue. Here are some of his points:
“[T]here is a huge contingent of military people who don’t believe taking a knee for the flag is disrespectful to the military. There is a large base of people in the military who see the same movement Colin Kaepernick took a knee for as an extension of the fight they’ve waged in the military. Yes, people in the military fight against racial injustice. They serve for an America they wish to see, one that is truly equal. …
“Anything that violates the ideals of the flag disrespects the flag. Police brutality is disrespectful to the flag. Redlining is disrespectful to the flag. Unfair school funding is disrespectful to the flag. Voter suppression is disrespectful to the flag. …
“This list could on and on. Nobody is telling Brees and the like to not respect the flag. Don’t be deceived — black people love the ideals of the flag. We have as much invested in that flag as anyone else in this country. You’d be hard-pressed to find a black person in this country who doesn’t have proud veterans on their family tree. Do you think for one second if the ideologies the flag is supposed to represent were somehow realized, black people wouldn’t be elated? Yes, hold the ideals of the flag high. Celebrate them. Revere them. Please. But actually do this and not just symbolically. …
“I know Brees apologized. I hope that doesn’t mean silencing his rampant fervor for America and the military. I hope it means him expanding the scope of the disrespect with which he won’t agree.”
Right on Marcus. Let’s not spend energy trying to silence Drew Brees and the people that have a similar perspective. That’s antithetical to the First Amendment and will only inflame tensions and make the situation worse. Instead, let’s try to continually increase their awareness of the plight and pain of black Americans. And as Thompson II suggests, let’s educate them about the many ways we are falling short of our American ideals in this country, and disrespecting the flag in the process.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon