Kyle Smith of National Review Online assesses a star NFL quarterback’s recent controversy.

After the actual riots, the metaphorical ones. Reputations get burned down. Careers get their windows smashed in. Character gets assassinated.

Much of this has been nearly as senseless, emotion-driven, and inane as the actual burning, looting, and destroying of urban neighborhoods. Attacking Drew Brees for expressing widely held patriotic beliefs was about as rational as setting fire to a gas station. Brees should have realized this, taken a deep breath, and reacted in the following way: by doing nothing. Brees should have let his original statement stand. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” was what he said, adding that thinking about the flag and the national anthem “brings me to tears thinking about all that’s been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.” Brees said paying respect to the flag “shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.”

Stirring words, and nothing inflammatory about them. Tony Dungy chimed in, “Drew Brees can’t be afraid to say that and we can’t be afraid to say ‘Okay, I don’t agree with you but let’s talk about this.’ We can’t just say anytime something happens we don’t agree with, ‘Hey I’m done with that and this person.’ That doesn’t make sense.”

Brees made his situation worse by apologizing for these remarks, which only turned up the outrage. The quarterback’s ritual groveling simply made his detractors more powerful. They demanded further groveling, and he complied. Now he has stamped himself forever as an antagonist to both sides of the culture war.