Opinion: This is why Drew Brees’ words hurt so much

A provided photo shows the father of C. David Moody (right) serving in the military.
A provided photo shows the father of C. David Moody (right) serving in the military.

Editor’s note: Earlier this week, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made comments regarding the protests by some NFL players in which they knelt during the national anthem as a protest of social injustice and police brutality. He stated he would never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag of the United States. Brees drew heavy criticism for his comments and issued an apology.

In the apology, Brees wrote: “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.”

C. David Moody Jr., owner of Moody Construction and President of the Atlanta Rotary Club, wrote an open letter to Brees on why his words were hurtful. His opinion appears in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with his permission.

Dear Drew,

As I read your insensitive words about players kneeling and, you could never respect them because of your grandfathers serving in World War II. The kneeling was not about disrespecting the flag, it was to bring awareness to injustice and police brutality.

Your words brought to mind a story my dad didn’t tell me until I was about 40 years old. I am now 64 and the story he told me still breaks my heart to this day.

My dad was born in 1932 in Baton Rouge, La. He was the youngest of 8 children.

During World War II, his older brothers were serving in the Army and stationed in Europe, driving in what was called “The Red Ball Express.”

During the war, some of the (White) German prisoners of war were imprisoned in an Army base in Baton Rouge. However, German POWs were allowed to go to local all white-movie theaters while under guard-something that Black officers and enlisted men could never do in the segregated South.

German POWs during and after their release at the end of war had more constitutional rights in Baton Rouge than my dad’s brothers did when they came home from WW II.

Please understand what I am telling you. White German men who killed American servicemen and had been captured and kept in Baton Rouge had more rights than Black American citizens.

He said White enemy POWs having more rights than he did was a scar that never healed for him. He was so traumatized by it that he waited more than 40 years to discuss it with me.

My father was in ROTC in college and upon graduating in 1955, he became a second lieutenant, the first black officer to lead desegregated troops in Panama at Fort Davis. Dad was honorably discharged as a Captain in the US Army.

My father was an Army officer and had a degree in biology. Still, the only job he could get when he first got out the service was shoveling manure at a lab in Chicago, Illinois.

Dad went on to receive his PhD and became a vice provost at the University of Michigan. He passed away last year and your words would have hurt him deeply.

C. David Moody Jr.
C. David Moody Jr.

The kneeling done by players was never to disrespect the flag nor the national anthem. It was to bring to the country’s attention to injustice and police brutality that is still taking place by a small number of police around the country who continue to torture and kill innocent black men and women.

Let me share with you an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail:” “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied…”

Drew, I believe your heart is in the right place, but your words were very hurtful to me and so many Americans, because we know the history and live with the trauma of racism.

My dad, and many black men like him, served this country proudly. You words would have broken my dad’s heart.

Drew, one of the reasons I admired you was because of how people said all the negative things about you not having the tools and stature to be an NFL quarterback. But you proved them wrong by working hard, and I am happy for you.

Your NFL experience is similar to what it is like being black. We are told what we can’t do because of the color of our skin and every day we do our best to prove the doubters wrong.

As Americans, we are in this together. We can be better and listen more. We MUST do better! This country, our children and the world need us to lead the way!

Sincerely,

C.D. Moody, Jr

In Other News