As most Ambush readers know by now, before being injured and declared out of commission for six weeks, Drew Brees was recently crucified in some circles over his controversial video endorsing “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” As weird as that concept is (can you imagine a “Bring Your Quran to School Day”?), the content of the video is not what upset people; rather, the firestorm erupted when BigEasyMagazine reported the video was used by Focus on the Family, a Christian hate-group that endorses conversion therapy. Other media outlets, some national, picked up the story and ran with it. Brees was pronounced a homophobe and his name became anathema to many gay folks. He was excoriated on social media for days. When he finally commented on the story, Brees’ claimed he did not know the video was for Focus on the Family and that he is not homophobic. But his remarks received a mixed reaction at best, many noting that he was self-defensive and that he spent most of his time attacking BigEasyMagazine for click-baiting.
The original story, written by Jenn Bentley, was published on September 3, just two days after Southern Decadence and is factually accurate. The central question is whether Brees knew the video was being made for Focus on the Family. And if he did know that, was he aware of Focus on the Family’s designation as a hate group because of its fierce opposition to LGBT+ rights and its support of conversion therapy. Bentley argues he did, citing two previous interviews with Focus on the Family in 2010 and 2015.
Responding to reporters a few days before the season opener, Brees addressed the issue, angrily claiming he was unaware the video he made was being used by a hate group and insisting he was not homophobic.
On social media, Brees tweeted, “Hopefully this sets the record straight with who I am and what I stand for. Love, Respect, and Accept ALL. I encourage you not to believe the negativity you read that says differently. It’s simply not true. Have a great day.” The tweet was followed by a short video in which he said, “I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have agendas that promote inequality.”
Those comments satisfied most (straight) people, but his response went over like a lead balloon in the LGBT+ community. Many noted Brees never actually apologized, played the victim, and attacked the messenger.
In his video, Brees said, “I’m not sure why the negativity spread.” And therein lies the problem. If he didn’t know then, he certainly knows now. And crickets.
This column was originally going to be an investigative report but sometimes investigations hit dead ends. Sometimes claims cannot be corroborated and facts cannot be confirmed. Sometimes key players decline to comment or even respond to interview requests. And sometimes those who do talk wish to remain anonymous or to speak “off the record.” All that happened in this case; so I’m offering what I’ve learned based on the information I have gathered. I should point out that I attempted to contact Brees, the Saints Organization, and Brees’ agent but have received no response. In the course of my digging, I did manage to contact friends and former co-workers of Brees who wish to remain anonymous.
Sources close to Brees swear he is not homophobic and cite numerous personal examples to support that claim. Their insistence seems to be supported by external evidence as well. Everyone who knows or who has met Brees says he is a humble, nice guy. His backers also point to his support of the NFL’s anti-bullying campaign.
But what about his ten-year association with Focus on the Family? A friend of Brees says “association” is the wrong word. In 2010, Brees did a radio interview on the topic of “Overcoming Adversity” for Focus on the Family. But some have pointed out that in 2010, after winning the Superbowl, Brees did over 200 interviews. And in 2015, Brees did a segment on his family, which straight fans point out is fairly innocuous.
Brees’ friends and fans point out that he does not have a Public Relations person, does a lot of interviews and promotional videos, and while he is a Christian, he is not an Evangelical and rarely goes to church. One source who used to work in the NFL also points out that players “live in a pretty tight bubble.” One source even fingered his agent for not vetting prospective groups seeking Brees’ endorsement.
Is it really possible Brees did not know what Focus on the Family stands for? Perhaps, but for many gay fans, indeed, anyone remotely in-touch with pop culture, it’s hard to believe.
For the sake of argument, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Okay, fine. But, given the pain he has caused so many in the LGBT+ community, why won’t Brees make a statement repudiating Focus on the Family and its hateful positions? That is the question.
If Brees values his LGBT+ fans, he should make a statement condemning Focus on the Family and apologize for ever having anything to do with the group. If Brees wants to believe in a ridiculous myth dreamt up by ignorant goat-herders in the Bronze Age, that’s his prerogative. But he cannot actively support groups that hate LGBT+ people and then be surprised when there is a backlash.
And for the record, the Bible endorses genocide, rape, racism, slavery, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and childhood genital mutilation. War and pedophilia did not even make Moses’ Top Ten Don’t list. The fact that many Christians can ignore that has always baffled me. If Drew Brees is one such “cherry-picker,” he should say so.