NFL star Drew Brees has distanced himself from Focus on the Family’s views on LGBT issues following days of criticism from left-leaning media outlets after he appeared in a video promoting the Christian nonprofit’s “Bring Your Bible to School Day” movement.
Brees, a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints who will likely one day be inducted into the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, released a video on Twitter Thursday addressing news articles that called into question his association with the James Dobson-founded nonprofit.
“There has been a lot of negativity spread about me in the LGBTQ community recently based upon an article someone wrote with a very negative headline that I think led people to believe that somehow I was aligned with an organization that was ant-LGBTQ and so on and so forth,” Brees said. “I would like to set the record straight."
Last week, Focus on the Family posted a short 22-second video on Facebook showing Brees encouraging children to bring their Bibles to school for “Bring Your Bible to School Day” on Oct. 3, a tradition that was launched by Focus on the Family in 2014.
While Focus on the Family is known for its work in equipping families to “thrive in an ever-changing, ever-more-complicated world,” it’s been criticized by many on the political left for being a socially conservative advocacy group that has funded campaigns against same-sex marriage and has promoted sexual orientation change efforts (labeled by some as “gay conversion therapy.”)
The video was noticed by the progressive New Orleans-based outlet Big Easy Magazine, which wrote an article on the video and questioned why Brees would associate with Focus on the Family. The Big Easy Magazine reporting angle was then picked up by several other news outlets, creating a bit of a firestorm for the pro-bowl quarterback.
In response to critics, Brees explained that he only did the video to promote Bring Your Bible to School Day, nothing else. He suggested that misleading headlines led people to believe that he was "aligned with an organization that was ant-LGBTQ and so on and so forth."
Brees stressed that he does not “support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality.”
He assured fans that he lives his life by two “simple Christian fundamentals.” Those fundamentals are “love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
“I think the first one is very self-explanatory. The second one: love your neighbor as yourself. What does that mean to me?” Brees posited. “That means love all, respect all and 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 no matter your race, your color, your religious preference, your sexual orientation, your political beliefs, it doesn't matter,” he added.
“So the fact that these rumors have been spread about me are completely untrue.”
On Thursday, Brees addressed reporters in the Saints locker room and seemed to suggest that he was unaware of the past lobbying efforts of Focus on the Family.
“I was not aware of any of the things [the media] said about them lobbying for anti-gay any type of messaging, inequality or any type of hate-type related stuff,” Brees said. “I was not aware of that at all. Again, the video itself was just focused on national Bring Your Bible to School Day. It was not promoting any group, certainly not promoting any group that is associated with that type of behavior.”
Brees continued by saying that “unfortunately, there are Christian organizations out there that are involved in that kind of thing.”
“To me, that is totally against what being a Christian is all about,” Brees asserted.
“Being a Christian is love, its forgiveness, it's respecting all, it's accepting all. It's everything I said in the video, which hopefully you guys saw and everybody else will. It's a shame that people make headlines just to get hits, just to get views. Then, all of a sudden these rumors spread that are completely untrue.”
Last week’s video was not the first time Brees has been featured by Focus on the Family. He appeared in a Focus on the Family radio broadcast in 2010 and was featured in a 2015 article published on the Focus on the Family webpage under a section titled “Marriage Success.”
Opponents on the political left often accuse organizations that promote traditional Christian views on marriage, sexuality and other issues of promoting “hate.” Also, organizations that seek to provide talk therapy assistance to gays and lesbians who want to live according to a biblical lifestyle are often accused of conducting “conversion therapy.”
In a blog post published Friday, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly contended that Brees is the "latest individual to be caught up in the middle of a growing intolerance toward those of us with a conservative Christian worldview."
Daly contested the "anti-LGBT religious group" label given to Focus on the Family in a Washington Post article. Daly argued that such a label is "decidedly unfair and a gross distortion of reality."
"Is there no longer any realm where I can disagree with someone on the definition of marriage and human sexuality and still be considered a decent person?" Daly asked.
"By both the [Washington] Post’s and other critics' standards, anybody who holds to the historical teachings of biblical sexuality is now labeled a bully and bigot, someone who holds others in personal contempt."
Daly contended that the press' fascination with Focus on the Family's support for "gay conversion therapy" misrepresents the position of the organization.
"To be clear, we do not advocate for any therapy that requires or promises change or sexual conversion. We especially denounce any practice that shames, degrades, coerces, abuses, or insults any individuals," Daly explained.
"But because we hold that every human possesses inherent dignity and is of immeasurable worth, we do believe in and support the availability of professional counseling in matters of sexuality that is respectful, safe, ethical and responsive to the client’s values and desires."
Daly stressed that anyone with "unwanted same-sex attraction" should be afforded the ability to "pursue their desired help." He added that American pluralism "demands that those who disagree with me shouldn’t mock or malign my deeply held religious beliefs."
"Shaming me is mean-spirited and unproductive," Daly wrote. "If you expect me to accept and respect you, then I am deserving of your respect and acceptance. Tolerance is a two-way street."
In an open letter Thursday, Big Easy Magazine Publisher Scott Ploof defended his outlet’s decision to publish its article highlighting Brees’ association with Focus on the Family.
Ploof accused Brees of trying to spin the situation in a way to suggest that Big Easy Magazine published “clickbait.”
“We listened to your apology, and we actually fully believe you when you say you respect people regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc,” Ploof wrote.
“[B]ut instead of attacking an independent, local publication that has covered the Saints extensively for publishing an article with a ‘very negative headline,’ and going on to accuse the publication of publishing clickbait, you should have spent your time sincerely apologizing to the LGBTQ community for aligning yourself with a group that is known for their anti-gay stance.”