New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees faced a barrage of criticism this week after appearing in a video promoting an event organized by an evangelical Christian group known for its anti-LGBTQ stance.
Brees partnered with Focus on the Family to promote “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” now in its sixth year and slated for Oct. 3. The athlete encouraged students to “share God’s love with friends” in a 22-second video, viewable above.
The video was posted to YouTube Aug. 28. However, it began making the media rounds this week after Louisiana’s Big Easy Magazine questioned whether or not Brees was aware he’d supported “a religious group known to be one of the most well funded anti-LGBT organizations in the country.” The clip itself makes no mention of Focus on the Family, though the group is referenced on the official website for “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
And while Brees has been vocal about his Christian faith, his participation in a Focus on the Family initiative didn’t sit well with some fans given that group’s well-documented opposition to LGBTQ rights.
In an effort to “set the record straight,” Brees responded to the criticism in a short video posted to his social media accounts Thursday.
“I live by two very simple Christian fundamentals,” he said in the clip, which can be viewed below. “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“I’m not sure why the negativity spread or why people tried to rope me into certain negativity,” he continued. “I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality. … That’s not what I stand for.”
Brees doubled down on that stance at a Thursday press conference, telling reporters that his video “was not promoting any group, certainly not promoting any group that is associated with that type of [anti-LGBTQ] behavior.”
“I know that there are, unfortunately, Christian organizations out there that are involved in that kind of thing, and to me that is totally against what being Christian is all about,” he said. “Being Christian is love. It’s forgiveness. It’s respecting all, it’s accepting all.”
Based in Colorado, Focus on the Family has lobbied against same-sex marriage, arguing that there is “no place for it within the context of a Christian worldview” on its official website.
The group opposed the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which banned gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces. It was also an organizer of the now-defunct Love Won Out symposium, featuring “powerful stories of ex-gay men and women.”
On Friday, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly denounced the backlash that Brees had weathered.
“It’s unfortunate that mean-spirited antagonists have attempted to draw attention away from this event by mischaracterizing the beliefs and positions of our organization,” he told The Washington Post.
As for Brees, the 40-year-old has previously participated in anti-bullying efforts. In 2012, he joined Ellen DeGeneres and Demi Lovato in signing a petition encouraging the Motion Picture Association of America to change the rating of the documentary “Bully” so that younger viewers could access the film.