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What Example Will the NFL Provide for the Youth of America?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Editor's Note: This piece was coauthored by Loyd Pettegrew.

Merriam-Webster defines etiquette as “the conduct of procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.” The Oxford Dictionary adds, “Etiquette is the formal rules of correct or polite behavior in society.” It has traditionally been prescribed as an important attribute of our society because such behaviors help us show respect and consideration for one another. This, of course is something that has been missing since the dark days of the Floyd and Brooks riots.


With etiquette we validate the importance of each individual and all members of society collectively. Without the proper adherence to good manners and etiquette of the best conduct in our society would soon disappear and we would degenerate into merely a collection of people that acted more like animals and less like civilized people, much like what has happened in the past month..

Drew Brees, the white quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and holder of 10 NFL records for career pass completions, completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns passes, highest single-season completion percentage, most consecutive games with a touchdown pass, most pass completions in a season, most 5,000-yard passing seasons, highest completion percentage in a game, and tied for most touchdown passes in a game, was interviewed on June 3, 2020 about the upcoming 2020 season. During the interview Brees expressed his honest opinion and feeling that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.”

He went on to explain how he associated the flag and national anthem with the service and sacrifice of his two grandfathers who fought in World War II and recognized the sacrifice they had made to advance civil rights in the United States. He concluded by expressing his hope that collectively respecting our flag could show unity in further advancing efforts to improve our nation. One can assume that Brees was manifesting his fidelity to the etiquette he was undoubtedly taught at his home. Unfortunately, his thoughts and feelings brought immediate, vitriolic recriminations, not unity. Drew Brees has committed an unpardonable sin - expressing an opinion or position that was different from the messaging of BLM supporters.


Fellow teammate Michael Thomas tweeted, “He don’t know no better” and “we don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else, how about that.” 

Basketball super star LeBron James joining the attack of Brees, tweeted, “Wow man! Is it still surprising at this point? Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??” James was failed by any ancient history class he may have taken in college. As Bruce Thornton reveals in a paper titled Free Citizens Do Not Kneel, “Kneeling specifically appears in Greek literature as an emblem of political slavery that follows an absence of rule by law and accountability...The ritual of kneeling, then, is just not virtue-signaling or moral preening or an act of cowardice. As Herodotus showed 2500 years ago, it is a sign of submission, a mark of inequality, and a surrender to tyranny.”

And the NFL virtue-signaling went on. Malcom Jenkins, another Brees teammate posted a four-minute video on Instagram saying in part, “if you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are a part of the problem.”

Additionally, protestors assembled in some New Orleans locals chanting, “F… Drew Brees.” On June 6, 2020, NFL president Roger Goodell publicly stated, "We the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people…We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest." One wonders if the NFL just gave its endorsement for players to protest during the national anthem and thereby insult our national heritage this coming season. Should he not have followed President Donald Trump’s advice in his 4th of July message to the nation, “We stand tall, we stand proud, and we only kneel to Almighty God”?


Brees had committed the unpardonable sin, protected by the First Amendment; think of it as ideological hari kari. He had expressed a heart-felt, personal viewpoint. His crime was that it contradicted BLM orthodoxy and that of its sympathizers. The barrage of insults was merciless. Two days later, succumbing to public and private recriminations, Brees made two separate apologies, one on an Instagram post, the other on a video. Brees embraced one of the major logical fallacies underpinning the BLM Movement--The Moral Dilemma. The moral dilemma presents any issue as a binary choice--if you are not with us, then you are against us. There is no middle ground, no other possible options. To the violent, vocal, and unruly proponents of diversity, there can be no diversity of ideological thought because freedom of critical thought might expose all of the flaws, words and actions of the de rigueur BLM ideology.

To many, like Brees, the American Flag and the national anthem represents the sacrifice and service of all Americans to the principles of freedom and liberty. Over one million Americans have lost their lives fighting for our country. Many millions more have been wounded in battle, and many millions more have served our nation with honor and distinction. Instead of supporting protests during the national anthem, perhaps the NFL could encourage political expression in other ways or at more appropriate venues. Spectators who come to the game don’t wish to watch a protest or observe highly paid, privileged athletes make personal political statements that show a lack of etiquette and proper upbringing. They can do that by tuning into MSNBCNN. The youth of America will be watching how the NFL has sold etiquette down the leftist ideological rat hole.


Here is what the U.S. Code 301 advises citizens about the National Anthem.

a) Designation --The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem; b) Conduct During Its Playing –All persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart.  If applicable, headdress should be removed.

The Brees’ apology tour has done little good and has committed irreparable harm to the NFL and America’s youth who admire professional football players and see them as role models. Two object lessons come from this. First, you can thumb your nose at rules with little consequence as Colin Kaepernick did taking a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Second, don’t stand up for your constitutionally protected rights to say what you believe.

As our president said in celebration of Independence Day, “Make no mistake: this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution. In so doing, they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery and progress.”

Dr. McCoy was a tenured Associate Professor in the College of Education at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.

Loyd Pettegrew, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

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