While much of white America reckons with Black Lives Matter, others feel marginalized

Armstrong Williams | 6/18/2020, midnight
The recent scenes of largely white crowds across the world demonstrating in support of Black Lives Matter in the wake ...
Armstrong Williams

We should not require them to assert their allegiance to Black Lives Matter or demand they kneel in solidarity with striking athletes. We should ask that they use their positions of influence and stature to open the doors to more inclusion and opportunity. This is something they likely would be only too eager to do, if constructively engaged. The best way to defeat an enemy, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, is to convert him into an ally.

What is also obvious is that Bethmann is not alone in his sentiments. One of the most contentious controversies over the past few years has been the battle over the meaning of national anthem protests at professional sports events, used as a tactic to bring attention to the issue of police brutality. Proponents of the protests, most notably Colin Kaepernick, have insisted that taking a knee during the national anthem was not about disrespecting the flag but about holding America to its unkept promise of equal treatment under the law for African Americans. But others, initially including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, have attempted to cast the issue as President Trump does: in terms of symbolizing respect for the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans and front-line law enforcement. This culture war has raged for years, and recently came back into focus in the aftermath of the George Floyd tragedy.

When asked how the NFL should respond to renewed calls by players for on-field gestures to protest police brutality, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees waded full-tilt into the controversy by stating that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” Brees’ statement in light of the current climate provoked immediate backlash against him, even among his teammates. But this is a stance that Brees consistently has taken.

Brees reportedly is a well-liked, respected leader in a locker room where most of the players are African Americans. He has contributed significantly to charitable causes in New Orleans, specifically those which benefit poor and Black children. He is, for better or worse, no Donald Trump. And so, for him to get swept up in the furor around Black Lives Matter is a telling sign of the times. The larger point here is that Drew Brees dared to speak his opinion—he did not just shut up. Though he was challenged, he also responded in subsequent statements that he was willing to listen to the perspective of his Black friends and supporters, and stand in solidarity with them in their quest for equal justice.

Notably, however, Brees did not repudiate his stance on respecting the flag. Nor did he have to do so to show great humility and compassion towards his teammates. Brees can have his own opinion and deeply empathize with the plight of others. He can stand for what he believes and permit others to kneel for their beliefs—without driving a stake of division through the heart of unity he has engendered over his career as a team leader. Brees’ conduct exemplifies a clear path forward towards healing our country’s divides and making progress together.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”