How many years now has this country spent slogging through the arguments over whether kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality is disrespectful? This is year four, is it not?

Pick a side, buddy.

I don’t begrudge Brees or anyone else the right to change their mind about anything. It’s a mark of good character to be willing to relinquish a weak opinion in which you’ve invested time and energy. But don’t do it literally overnight, after four years of sticking to your guns, because you were hit with an avalanche of peer pressure.

That’s not thoughtful reconsideration, it’s conformity.

Here he was yesterday:

A respectable, even noble sentiment. When the anthem plays he thinks of his grandfathers, both veterans, and the sacrifices they and others have made to protect America. He views it as a moment of pride and unity, and thus resents seeing it used as an opportunity to highlight a matter of national shame and disunity.

He got destroyed for that on social media, and not just by randos.

Aaron Rodgers replied to Brees by saying, “A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action. #wakeupamerica #itstimeforchange #loveoverfear #solidarity #libertyandjusticeforall #all”. Meanwhile, closer to home:

Michael Thomas is a teammate of Brees’s on the Saints. Another teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, laid him out on Instagram. Some profanity here:

Brees has done a lot of charity work for Louisiana and New Orleans, the population of which is majority African-American, only to be told here by Jenkins that he’s been paying lip service to the concept of brotherhood. Per Quin Hillyer, “His philanthropy, especially for communities of color, is legendary. For years, he has denounced ‘racism … [and] inequality for people of color, for minorities, for immigrants.’ He has been outspoken against the killing of Floyd, participated enthusiastically in #BlackoutTuesday, and urged everyone to ‘model to young people what it is to love and respect all.'” Didn’t earn him any benefit of the doubt as to good intentions yesterday.

Today he recanted:

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I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that 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. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: 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.

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How are we still having misunderstandings about this in the year of our lord 2020? People who support kneeling during the anthem say they’re not communicating disrespect, they’re communicating their indignation at being disrespected by a justice system that doesn’t treat blacks equally. They do it during the anthem, a moment of supposed national unity, to signal that meaningful unity isn’t possible until the disparate treatment ends. If you don’t accept their explanation or think they should find some other way to make their point, fair enough. (They’d respond that people who are hostile to their message will always find fault with how they’re communicating that message, until they do it in a way that’s so ineffectual that it can be safely ignored.) The point is, there’s no way Brees is still working through this in his mind after four years of digesting it. He’s heard the pro-kneeling arguments ad nauseam and dismissed them; only when he got lambasted yesterday did he relent. So why didn’t he relent sooner? Why step on this rake and make his teammates mad at him instead of changing his mind earlier in a less obviously expedient way?