There’s been some confusion about whether NFL quarterback Drew Brees is homophobic, following his partnership with the group Focus on the Family. That organization is one of the most radical anti-LGBTQ organizations in the country, and yet Brees says that “I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas, that are trying to promote inequality.” So what’s the truth?
First, some background. Brees made headlines this week when he appeared in a video sponsored by Focus on the Family. In the video, Brees endorsed the group’s “Bring Your Bible to School Day” project, which was created to counteract GLAAD’s LGBTQ-inclusive Spirit Day.
GLAAD has encouraged students to wear purple every third Thursday in October since 2010 to show support for queer youth and to stand against bullying. Focus on the Family created their event in 2014 and scheduled it for the exact same day. According to Focus on the Family leaders, the event was created through their Day of Dialogue project, which founders say was started as a “day of truth” to "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective."
The “Bring Your Bible to School Day” event that Brees promoted is a direct outgrowth of that initiative.
But maybe Brees didn’t know any of that, and simply endorsed an event and organization out of ignorance. Does that still make him homophobic? Answering that requires some talk about what homophobia is.
Homophobia isn’t just gay-bashing, using anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, or donating to anti-gay politicians. While those are overt expressions, it can also manifest in more subtle ways. Aligning with anti-gay organizations, looking the other way when LGBTQ+ people are abused, and upholding systems of power that oppress queer people are all forms of homophobia.
What’s more, despite legal and cultural advances, we still live in a homophobic society. Hate crimes against queer people are on the rise, the current administration has launched one attack after another on the LGBTQ+ community, and you can be fired in most states for being gay. We all carry the baggage of living in that society, which means we all carry some homophobia around with us every day.
What can you do about that? You can make an active choice to oppose homophobia around you, and work to dismantle systems of oppression. In order to claim that you are not homophobic, you must choose to act.
But that’s not what Brees has done.
Instead, he’s doubled-down, with a new video blaming “an article someone wrote with a very negative headline that I think led people to believe that somehow I was aligned with an organisation that was anti-LGBTQ.”
To be clear: Brees is aligned with an organization that is anti-LGBTQ. The group opposes marriage equality, promotes conversion therapy, opposes parental rights for same-sex parents, called trans people “mentally ill,” and wants employers to be able to fire workers for being gay.
It would be an easy matter for Brees to make a video in which he condemns Focus on the Family and its many homophobic positions. It would be easy for him to say that he was uninformed about the organization’s history with the community. It would be easy for him to make recurring donations to LGBTQ nonprofits like The Trevor Project. It would be easy for him to support GLAAD’s anti-bullying Spirit Day initiative.
But he hasn’t, and in making those choices, he’s shown us where he stands.