NEW ORLEANS -- Drew Brees said he felt "sad for New Orleans" but also "angry at New Orleans" in the wake of former teammate Will Smith's death in a shooting late Saturday night following a traffic accident.
Like New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton did on Monday and many others have done over the past 48 hours, Brees talked passionately on WWL Radio on Monday night about the overwhelming amount of gun violence in New Orleans and elsewhere.
Brees was asked what could come out of Smith's situation to possibly help and to keep people from reacting to incidents like this with, "Oh, that's New Orleans." His answer lasted nearly five full minutes:
"You have to find a way for something positive to result out of this. As difficult as that sounds right now because it's so tragic and we're all so torn up about it, you have to find a way to make this a catalyst for positive change. I think that's part of how we can all remember Will's legacy is that he had as big an impact as when he was here on this earth as he's gonna have when he's no longer here.
"You know, there were so many emotions when I first heard what happened. And I'll be honest with you, part of my emotions was I was angry. I was sad for New Orleans, and I also was angry at New Orleans. Because I feel like this is a problem that's been around for a long time. And it's not just New Orleans, it's nationwide. It's worldwide. It's the way that people treat people. And somehow along the way, we've all become desensitized to the fact that this stuff happens every day and it's OK, or we can kind of just move on from it as if it's gonna happen and it's part of the way things are and there's nothing we can really do about it. And listen, it's overwhelming.
"It's overwhelming when you think about this epidemic, or this problem, of young, mainly young men, killing young men for no apparent reason. In many cases, it's drugs, it's gang violence, it's different things. But then you have an instance like this where it's a traffic accident. I don't know the exact details around it but two guys get out of car and next thing you know one of them pulls out a .45 and not only is he shooting the guy he's arguing with, but he goes to shoot at everybody in the car, including his wife and who knows, it could have been the rest of his family in that car. What that tells me is that the person who's pulling the trigger in many cases has no regard for the life that he's about to try to take. And he also has no regard for his own life, because there's consequences with that and they have to recognize those consequences.
"What that tells me is that too many of these people don't have any hope, and what's the source of that? Well I think it's a lot of things. I think that too many of these young men, and I say 'young men' because that's the majority, that's the vast majority ... young men probably feel like they don't have a purpose, like they have been abandoned, whether it be by their family, the lack of a father or the lack of a male role model in their life, that they feel like they don't have an opportunity to better themselves or better their family in life. 'Nobody cares about me in school, I'm not gonna get a great education, I'm not gonna have a chance to go to college, I'm not gonna have the chance to break the cycle of poverty within my family. The only thing I can resort to, the only family that I have is a gang. The only opportunity I have to make money or be successful in life is to deal drugs.' And all those things -- listen, there's so many things -- but all those things culminate to this attitude or this mindset that, 'This is the only thing I have to live for and this is my reality.' And that, I feel like we can change.
"And it's not an easy process and it's not an overnight fix. But that is something we can all band together and we can find ways to make sure that these young men know that there is hope. They do have opportunity. There are people that care about them. So they don't have to feel like this is their only option. Because I feel like in a majority of these cases, these acts of violence and gun violence happen because these young men feel like they have no other option, and they don't have any regard for the life they're about to take or their own lives, or the consequences of it. I think we all need to take a really hard look at that.
"And you know what else, I think having a Christian influence in your life can also solve many of those problems, because if you know that God is in your heart, and that you have a purpose and that God has put you on this earth with talent and abilities to go out and make this world a better place and to treat others with respect and thoughtfulness, I believe that changes people. It's a fact. And so all those things together I feel like can change. But it's not just one person, it's everybody believing that, and it's finding ways to execute that."