Last week, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees disavowed the Christian political organization Focus on the Family after facing backlash for appearing in a video supporting one of the socially conservative group’s causes.
On Monday, Patriots tight end Ben Watson went on Fox News to defend the group, as well as his former Saints teammate.
Brees had recently recorded a video for “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” an initiative sponsored by Focus on the Family. That sparked criticism last week from a local progressive magazine, which noted that the Colorado-based group is described as “one of the most well funded anti-LGBT organizations in the country” by the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.
Watson, however, thinks that description is “slanderous.”
“The article itself was misleading and a mischaracterization of Focus on the Family, and of Drew,” the 38-year-old tight end said in an appearance Monday on “Fox & Friends.” “It was slanderous. My response was to stop lying with those sorts of labels.”
During his 16-year NFL career, Watson has been outspoken about his Christian beliefs and socially conservative views. During his “Fox & Friends” interview Monday, the veteran football player said Bright Your Bible to School Day was an expression of a “religious liberty right” and “something positive.”
When asked how he thought critics were lying, Watson said “labeling Focus on the Family as anti-gay, anti-nondiscrimination.”
On their website, Focus on the Family argues that homosexuality is a “sin” and that “transgenderism violates God’s design.” In addition to opposing same-sex marriage and adoption, the group sponsored conferences around the country promoting conversion therapy, a practice that has been banned in 18 states and opposed by the American Psychiatric Association.
At the same time, Focus on the Family maintains on its website that there is “no place for hatred, hurtful comments, or other forms of rejection toward those who experience same-sex attraction or identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.”
Watson called it a “shame” Monday that Focus on the Family had been labeled “anti” gay.
“What Focus on the Family does is uphold marriage, which — family is the basic building block of society,” he said. “They uphold those things, and they’re labeled ‘anti’ by other people. And there’s an agenda there. And that’s what really upset me about the whole thing.”
Watson — who was on Fox News to promote a pro-life documentary he’s working on — went on to say it was perhaps “incumbent” upon the religious community, in the wake of such criticism, to “love more” and “express our beliefs in a way that’s not as condemning more.”
Watson didn’t play in the Patriots’ season-opening game Sunday night against the Steelers due to a four-game suspension for purportedly taking a testosterone supplement during his brief retirement this past offseason, which violated the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He played with Brees on the Saints last season, as well as from 2013 to 2015. Watson came out of retirement to join the Patriots, with whom he played his first seven seasons, following star tight end Rob Gronkowski’s retirement in March.
For his part, Brees — a devout Christian who teamed up with Tim Tebow on an anti-abortion Super Bowl ad in 2010 — posted a video on Twitter last week disabusing the notion that he was “aligned with an organization that was anti-LGBTQ.” The quarterback said his video for Bring Your Bible to School Day was narrowly intended to support that initiative.
“I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality,” he said in the video. “So hopefully that has set the record straight and we can all move on, because that’s not what I stand for.”
Brees later told reporters that he was unaware of Focus on the Family’s “anti-gay” statements or political efforts.
“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.