Drew Brees Apologizes Amid Backlash For Saying He Doesn’t Support National Anthem Protests

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has apologized amid backlash over previous comments where he said he did not agree with NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.

During an interview on Wednesday with Yahoo Finance, Brees was asked about the National Anthem and the 2020-2021 NFL season.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said, claiming the flag represents the sacrifices of those who have fought and died to defend it. “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 fought in the army and one in the marine corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try and make our country and this world a better place.”

“So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag, singing the National Anthem, that’s what I think about. In many cases it brings me to tears,” he continued. “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 sixties.”

“Everyone and all that has been endured by so many people up to this point. 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 respecting the flag with your hand over your heart is that it shows unity,” Brees added. “It shows that we are all in this together. We can do better and we are all a part of the solution.”

The New Orleans star was not asked about the ongoing protests for the killing of George Floyd but many people online interpreted his comments within that context.

Amid some backlash, Brees issued another statement where he said he stands for “fighting for racial equality and justice.”

“I love and respect my teammates and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice,” he said. “I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.”

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LeBron James and many others came out against Brees and his comments about the National Anthem protests initially spurred by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The controversy spread like a wildfire online and Brees issued an apology.

“I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,” Brees wrote on Instagram Thursday morning.

He added: “In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”

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I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

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Brees’ teammate Marcus Davenport, a defensive end, supported his quarterback amid the backlash.

“Drew wasn’t talking about the current protest, the riots or really anything besides HIS feelings on kneeling during the National Anthem,” he tweeted. “He even explained what they were, the basis and that he actually stands with us. Do we have to entirely agree with him, no.”

In an Instagram post, fellow elite NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers joined the chorus of those who disagreed with Brees.

“A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action,” he said in a post with a picture of him locking arms with former players Brett Hundley (7), tight end Richard Rodgers (82), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) and free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21).

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