In light of events this week, racial injustice issues have been at the forefront of national news and have caused massive amounts of controversy within the sports industry itself. NFL players Drew Brees and Jake Fromm have faced severe backlash after comments deemed to be racist were made public.
Brees, a New Orleans Saints quarterback, began an internet feud after speaking out in an interview against players protesting during the national anthem. He claimed he felt it was disrespectful to the flag, as well as those who sacrificed their lives for our country. Brees specifically mentioned thinking about his grandfathers’ sacrifices when pledging allegiance to the flag.
Fromm was selected by the Buffalo Bills in this year’s NFL Draft after proving his skill at the University of Georgia. Private text messages were leaked earlier this week that revealed racist comments, claiming “elite white people” should be the only citizens able to purchase guns.
In the wake of his insensitive remarks, Brees faced criticism from some of his own teammates, including Malcolm Jenkins and Michael Thomas. LeBron James was also quick to speak on Brees’ remarks claiming Brees missed the mark on what kneeling during the pledge of allegiance truly signified.
Considering about 70% of NFL players are black, it is not surprising many of his teammates spoke out against him. This is also not the first time Brees has spoken out against kneeling on one knee. As societal injustices continue to reach their climax, the reaction the public has had toward his comments has escalated as well.
Colin Kaepernick was the first player to protest against racial injustice four years ago. The then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback took a knee during the national anthem and was faced with support as well as criticism for his actions.
Many NFL athletes have already publicized their plans to kneel during the anthem once the NFL season begins. This time, many of their white teammates are also joining in on the movement. Brees and Fromm are not amongst that group.
On Thursday, Brees finally issued an apology on his Instagram page. He claimed he was overwhelmed with how his original message was perceived and apologized for what he said.
It is important to note that he did not retract any of his original statements. Brees’ apology was again met with controversy because of his inability to acknowledge why his original statements were problematic.
On the same day, Fromm posted an apology on Twitter, where he acknowledged there was no reasonable explanation for his actions. He claims he “stands against racism 100%” and truly devotes himself to being a part of the change, not the problem.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier stated he believes Fromm will grow and learn from his mistakes as he is just learning how to live in the public eye. Fromm sent the message as a young college student, not aware of how his actions would one day affect his professional career. There is more understanding in a situation like this than in one like Brees’.
Many professional athletes, or individuals whose lives are in the spotlight, become aware of how their words or actions could affect their career, reputation, personal life, and future opportunities. It is reasonable to argue that Fromm’s perspective and choices will be altered as he begins his career as an NFL quarterback. Everyone will be watching him.
Notably, Jets safety Jamal Adams was quick to dismiss Brees’ and Fromm’s apologies. Essentially, Adams claimed their apologies were ingenuine and only being made because of social pressure.
This is not an unreasonable claim, considering many celebrities often apologize to avoid controversy rather than truly accepting their mistake.
Throughout sports history, black athletes have always led the public movement on racial injustice issues. The culture is now changing as several white NFL players such as Tom Brady, J.J. Watt, and Carson Wentz have issued statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement as well as condemning George Floyd’s killing.
Ultimately, fellow athletes, fans, and citizens nationwide will be watching to see if Brees and Fromm can uphold their promises.