It's not what he did, it's the way he did it.
That's the message New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has for Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started a controversy Friday when he sat down during the singing of the national anthem. Kaepernick said he chose to sit down to protest police brutality and the ongoing oppression of people of color in the U.S.
While Brees supports Kaepernick's cause, according to a tweet he sent on Monday evening, he doesn't support Kaepernick's method.
"I agree with his protest," Brees tweeted. "I don't agree with his method."
But wait — where have we heard this tactic before?
As pointed out by journalist Adam H. Johnson, Brees' defense of the message and not the method is a cop-out so old, Martin Luther King Jr. described and debunked it years ago.
King's quote, which is from one of his letters from a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963, reads:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
King warns against white allies who denounce the methods by which black people try to gain their freedom, saying that this type of "white moderate" is even worse than a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Given how closely King and Brees' sentences align, it's hard to argue that King would've seen Brees as anything less than a distraction from the ultimate problem: the racism and police brutality that Kaepernick sought to highlight.
Brees is one of many footballers to criticize Kaepernick in the few days since his sitting protest. On Monday night, former San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice tweeted a condemnation of Kaepernick, in which Rice included the phrase "all lives matter" and a quote from Rodney King.