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Drew Brees talks return of NFL season and potential return of kneeling protests

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints Quarterback, and John Rotche, Franworth Founder and CEO join Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to discuss the protests erupting across the U.S., businesses reopening, and plans for the upcoming NFL season.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Perhaps one way to help empower people from disadvantaged communities, and that could be through franchises and getting them into businesses. And what better way to discuss that than to bring in the CEO and founder Franworth, John Rotche, but also New Orleans Saints quarterback,

Drew Brees, I'm going to ask you both to unmute, so that we can talk to you. And, you know, John, forgive me. I want to go to the quarterback first on this one. We're hearing a lot about how we get people enfranchised into this society. You are in a position of leadership, Mr. Brees. And actually, this morning, you put out on Twitter something that was very interesting in which you said it was about action.

You pointed out that there's a saying in every locker room that I have been in-- don't just talk about it. Be about it. Your actions speak so loudly, I can't hear what you're saying. So Drew, if you can unmute, I'm curious how do you turn that into action? As you're unmuting, I'm going to go to John and see what he has to say-- how you turn that into action with franchise owners.

JOHN ROTCHE: Yeah, so first of all, I appreciate you having us on. I think it's leading by example. You know, franchisees, they join the system because they want to be part of something just bigger than themselves. And we always say in franchising your business for yourself but not by yourself. And especially in times like this, I think the franchisees, it could be-- for a small business owner, it could be fairly lonely. When they're at home by themselves, they really need to lean on their corporate partners to demonstrate the type of leadership that Drew is probably referring to.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Drew, I see that you're unmuted. I'm curious, could you respond to that? Because, I mean, you're a leader. You took the knee several years along with all of your teammates. But you've also talked about that sometimes protests or demonstrations, for instance, in the middle of the National Anthem, might be divisive. So what is the action we should take now?

DREW BREES: Well, that's not an easy question to answer. But at the end of the day, I think my response via social media today was basically to reinforce my belief that God created us all equal. And I think that we all have a responsibility to love each other and to respect each other.

And I try to live my life by two basic Christian fundamentals. And that is love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself. And I think that we accomplish greater things as a community, as a society, and as a country when we do it together. And I think that we are all equipped with great talents, abilities, and strengths. And we can use that with each other and for each other. I think can accomplish some amazing things. And obviously, these are trying times during our country, certainly coming out of this COVID crisis and then entering into another crisis, or really, these two compounding with each other.

I think we all recognize the changes that need to take place. And I do think it's about action versus just-- you know, everybody is going to social media and saying their piece. Obviously, there are riots, and there are protests. And people are certainly out there showing their frustration as well. But I think at the end of the day, we need to find ways to work together to provide opportunities for one another to continue to move our country forward to a bigger and better place.

DAN ROBERTS: Drew, Dan Roberts here. Thanks for joining us. If we stick with this topic right now, you know, everyone is looking back now at Kaepernick's protest from a few years ago. And obviously, they were always about police brutality. And now it's coming back to the fore. And a lot of people expect that we will see players kneeling again when the NFL season starts. I'm curious how you think the NFL will and should respond to that. And of course, you're such a leader in the league. What is your responsibility as a leader in times like this for the rest of your teammates and players in the league?

DREW BREES: Well, I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the National Anthem is played, and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II-- one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps-- both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.

So every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the National Anthem, that's what I think about. And in many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed-- not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the Civil Rights movements of the '60s and everyone and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.

And is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it 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.

JULIE HYMAN: John, I wanted to bring you back into this-- it's Julie here-- and talk to you about-- come back to the idea of franchising and how we make change through more people owning more pieces of the pie, right, and having more economic equality. Talk to us about your franchisee base, who these people are, and what they're experiencing right now. Because obviously, it's been a tough few months already with coronavirus. And now, with these protests around the country, a lot of businesses that were starting to reopen are now pulling back.

JOHN ROTCHE: Yeah, so it's interesting, you know, our system, we have over 300 open units right now. And we have about-- or 300 total units. And a couple weeks ago, they were all closed. We now have about 50% of them have reopened. An interesting thing that's really happened is it's tough as of a time that this has been for our whole country, that the world actually, what we've actually seen is our franchisees have really pulled together, both from the COVID situation and then most recently, the rioting.

You know, it's really, again, as I stated earlier, when these franchisees-- unfortunately, there is going to be a lot of small business owners that may not be able to weather this storm. And with franchising being, really, the most proven business model out there, I think this is a time that the franchisees have been able to really rally around one another. And sometimes, franchisees, they tend to hunker down.

And they focus just on their own individual business. But in times of adversity like we're seeing, they're now finding a friend in their peers that they can reach out to. And the strength that everyone together is really what strengthens an overall brand.

AKIKO FUJITA: John, to your point, this is a time where people can rethink the opportunities that they can maybe take on in light of everything that has played out over the last two months. And looking at the discussion we started all this with, which is this opportunity gap that exists. I'm wondering how you're thinking within your company about how to reach out to these communities to talk to them about the opportunities that are there with franchising. Because I think a lot of this-- as a lot of CEOs of color have said, that it just takes one person to reach out and say, here's an opportunity you can get into. And that can really change the track or the course of that person's career.

JOHN ROTCHE: Yeah, so a couple of things happen. So again, there's two different issues here. You know, A, with COVID and then the unemployment spike, and then, of course, with the current rising situation. I'll speak a little bit more towards in franchising in general, what we find is when unemployment goes up, it actually creates a bigger opportunity within the franchise space because unfortunately, people may find themselves at an age that they may not be as employable as they once were.

But, yet, they're not in a position where they can really retire comfortably. So they need to do something. And this is really where franchising really becomes a great resource for these folks to be able to really find their next career. And it's something, at Franworth, we're really, really proud of because our whole business model, if you will, is really to partner with these young emerging brands to help them scale and create more opportunities for folks to get into business for themselves.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Drew, I want to turn attention back to what happened with the NFL and going forward. We saw the hockey league has at least a potential plan to start playing matches again, games. What do you think the NFL is going to be able to do? And what is it like to be on a field if there are no fans in the stadium?

DREW BREES: Well, I think that we will, more than likely, play our season. I know there's contingency plans in place to potentially push the season back. But at the end of the day, I think the goal would be to play the games as planned. I think if you polled all the NFL players as to what they would like to do, if you polled all the NFL fans as to what you think they would like to see, I think everybody wants to see NFL football back in its regularly scheduled spot.

Now whether we have fans or not-- I think that's yet to be determined. Could that be a phased approach as we go through the season-- maybe no fans, to partial fans, to full fans. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. But bottom line is we'll be ready to play football games, come August, September.

JULIE HYMAN: And, Drew, this is Julie again, here. So how are you preparing in the interim for all of this as you're staying at home? Presumably, you're in communication with your teammates, with your coaches, but we're also stuck in the same place. So what are you doing?

DREW BREES: Yeah, I mean, honestly, nothing's really changed for me from the standpoint of-- I still have a daily plan and a daily routine in regards to training and in regards to preparing for the season. You know, doing things remotely has been the change in regards to communication with teammates, versus, you know, being in the Saints facility, you know, being able to conduct meetings, and practices, and that kind of thing.

You know, honestly, I've been spending a lot of time with the business endeavors that I'm involved in with Franworth and supporting all of our portfolio brands, continuing to speak with young, emerging brands in regards to our professional services division, and just ways that we can continue to support other companies, other growing brands. And think about what the future is going to look like, and how many people will be out there looking for a change and looking for an opportunity.

And I think that's where Franworth really comes in big with our innovative approach and with our ability to really support young and emerging franchisees and companies. This is what we're all about. And this is what we're ready to do in the future.

ADAM SHAPIRO: All right, Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints quarterback and John Rotche, Franworth Founder and CEO-- we appreciate your being here and hope you will come back.