Cooper: Smearing the quarterback

Cooper: Smearing the quarterback

September 7th, 2019 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

The Associated Press / New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees signs autographs for fans following a joint NFL football practice with the Los Angeles Chargers in Costa Mesa, Calif., last month.

Photo by Mark Rightmire

It was, Drew Brees assumed, an innocuous way to suggest school-age Christians live out their faith.

In a 28-second video made to promote "Bring Your Bible to School Day" on Oct. 3, the popular New Orleans Saints quarterback cited his favorite verse — 2 Corinthians 5:7 ("For we live by faith, not by sight") — and encouraged those watching "to share God's love with friends."

"You're not alone," Brees said.

In an increasingly secular world that fears and ridicules Christian faith, he probably should have known better.

Earlier this week, Big Easy magazine — which refers to itself as "unapologetically progressive" — published an article headlined "Drew Brees Records Video for Anti-LGBT Religious Organization."

Nowhere in the brief video is anything mentioned about sexual orientation or the organization to which the article referred, Focus on the Family, which sponsors "Bring Your Bible to School Day."

Instead, the article first infers that the words Brees used, "live their faith" and "sharing God's love," are code for "attempting to convert fellow students at school."

"It's no secret that Brees is a Christian," the writer sniffs, "so the fact that he would record such a video likely isn't much of a surprise."

But the article spends the bulk of space on Focus on the Family, which it calls "one of the most well funded anti-LGBT organizations in the country."

It goes on to discuss conversion therapy, which the organization has supported for homosexuals seeking changes in their life, and the perils some groups see in such therapy — none of which, again, has anything to do with Brees or "Bring Your Bible to School Day."

Brees isn't the first innocent victim to be savaged in an effort to discredit an organization, and he won't be the last. That still doesn't make it right.

Unlike many people, who have no public venue in which to answer what has been done to them, though, the quarterback does. So he began his media session with reporters Thursday asking those who had seen the video if they thought it was a fair headline.

"In the video, is there any mention of any group outside of just talking about National Bring Your Bible to School Day? No there wasn't," Brees said. "It's not written anywhere on it. I don't say anything about it. The only thing I was promoting was encouraging kids to bring their Bibles to school on National Bring Your Bible to School Day, to live out your faith with confidence, and I gave my favorite Bible verse.

"So we can sit here and say that's not a very fair headline — that headline was not representative of what that video was about at all," he said. "Am I right in saying that? I think that's fair. Why would you post a headline like that? Why? Why would you post a headline like that when that's not what the video had anything to do about?"

We hope reporters who heard him might go back to their newspapers, magazines and television stations and have a real conversation about fairness with their editors. It's fair for journalists to report on Focus on the Family and whether the conversion therapy it has promoted has any merit. It's completely unfair to tag Brees, and similar innocent victims, for situations in which they had no hand.

The Saints quarterback, whose NFL season-opening game Monday might be expected to be his focus instead of the unfair treatment he was dealt, nevertheless tried to right the wrong with a Twitter video.

In it, Brees said he wanted to confront "the negativity spread about me in the LGBT community recently" and the "completely untrue" rumors about him. He said, simply, he lives "by two very simple Christian fundamentals: Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself."

Those words, in fact, are Jesus' words in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke when asked by an expert in the law — in attempting to test Jesus — what he must do to inherit eternal life.

"What does that mean to me?" Brees continued. "To love all, respect all, accept all. So that is actually how I live my life. That is what I try to do with my family, with my teammates, with people in my community, with my friends — all people."

Big East magazine and other "unapologetically progressive" media organizations are trying to test all of those who claim a Christian faith today.

Brees, if he lives his life by the words of Jesus that he cited, will pass the test. All those who claim a similar faith should use the same measuring stick.

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