Drew Brees issues an apology for his comments regarding kneeling during the national anthem

Legendary New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is facing backlash after comments he made in an interview with Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

In response to the death of George Floyd on May 25, protests and demonstrations have engulfed the United States, as well as social media, where hundreds of professional athletes have made their voices heard regarding Floyd’s death and the treatment of the black community in America.

One of those athletes who was asked to comment on the situation was Brees, who participated in a video interview with Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. In the interview, Brees was asked how he believes the NFL should respond during the upcoming season if players choose to kneel during the national anthem, a method of peacefully protesting police brutality that was popularized by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

Brees offered these thoughts:

“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 … 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 we are all part of the solution.”

Brees’ comments have not been received well, specifically with a number of Brees’ New Orleans Saints teammates, including superstar wide receiver and Brees’ primary target, Michael Thomas.

Thomas posted a series of tweets after Brees’ statements came to light, many of which seemed to be directly aimed at his quarterback.

Thomas wasn’t the only member of the Saints to speak out in response to Brees’ comments. Star running back Alvin Kamara appeared to respond early this afternoon:

And wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders seemingly had his say as well:

The responses didn’t stop in New Orleans.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman referred to Brees as “beyond lost.”

And former NFL wide receiver Doug Baldwin addressed Brees directly:

Here are a few other responses from fellow NFL players:

NBA superstar LeBron James also spoke out regarding Brees’ comments:

One Saints player who spoke out on Brees’ behalf was defensive end Marcus Davenport.

Brees sought to clarify his comments later Wednesday, and spoke with ESPN’s Mike Triplett regarding the backlash.

“I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice,” Brees 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.”

Triplett said that via text, Brees also added:

“I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. That includes all those who marched for women’s suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us … EVERYONE … represent that flag. Same way I respect all the citizens of our country … no matter their race, color, religion.

“And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life. Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don’t have it? That’s what I meant by actions speak louder than words. … My ACTIONS speak for themselves.”

On Thursday morning, Brees posted a lengthy apology on Instagram, acknowledging he “made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.”

The full text of that apology is in the Instagram caption below:

View this post on Instagram

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.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on

ESPN’s Dianni Russini spoke with several Saints players in the wake of Brees’ original comments and apology, and also spoke to head coach Sean Payton, who said he was “proud” of Brees’ apology.

She also revealed that the Saints will hold a previously planned team meeting today.

“It’s been an emotional 24 hours for this team. Talking to players yesterday before this apology came out, there was a lot of anger, a lot of frustration … Here we are now and Drew Brees puts out this statement. Players that I’ve spoken to say they’re proud of what he said. They believe in his words … I did speak to the head coach Sean Payton, who also agrees he is proud of Drew’s statement.”

One of those players who seems to be proud of Brees’ apology is Saints linebacker Demario Davis, who made an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up Thursday morning.

“Black people have been crying for far longer than George Floyd’s death and it’s gone dramatically unheard. When you see Drew Brees come out and say, ‘I missed the point but now I understand my mistake’ … I think that’s the model of leadership and that’s what needs to be modeled throughout America.”

One of Brees’ harshest critics from Wednesday was teammate Michael Thomas.

However, on Thursday, it seems Thomas was willing to accept Brees’ apology.

New Orleans offensive tackle Terron Armstead addressed the topic on Thursday morning as well, revealing that he had a personal conversation with Brees and other Saints teammates.

On Thursday morning, pundits shared their reactions to Brees’ comments on Wednesday, including Shannon Sharpe, who found Brees’ comments not only disappointing but lacked historical context and understanding.

“Drew Brees said something that I found insulting, to be quite honest with you. He said my grandfathers fought in World War II – I did not know two men won World War II … Did he know that black men fought alongside his grandfather in World War II, although in segregated military? That they were fighting in a foreign land for a freedom that when they came home, they did not enjoy like Drew Brees’ grandfathers did? Did Drew know that black men, that once they came home and were caught  in their military uniforms a lot of times were beaten, jailed, and even killed?”

Skip Bayless, in response to Sharpe, said that he doesn’t believe Brees is racist, but that Brees has long misunderstood racial injustices in America due to his affluent upbringing.

“When it comes to talking black and white, there is always this slippery slope of grey area in between. Drew Brees for me falls into the greyest of the grey area. Do I believe that at heart Drew Brees is a racist? No, I don’t. I don’t know that for a fact but I don’t. Do I think he has a racial blindspot? Yes, I do. And I’ve always thought that. You have to look at where he came from and how he was raised in Austin, Texas … Father a prominent trial attorney, mother also an attorney … but in the end Drew blindly loves God and country. It’s all about the flag.”

Nick Wright also chimed in, pointing out how Brees opted to ignore the real issues at hand, that being police brutality in America.

“I think it’s important to recognize the question he was asked, I’ll read it to you exactly: ‘How will the NFL respond to potential kneeling and what is your responsibility in times like this?’ That’s the question Drew Brees was asked. He could have taken it any direction he wanted. He chose, made an active choice, to hit for the cycle of disinformation. He never once mentions police brutality, race, or racism. He immediately goes to disrespect, the red herring of disrespecting the flag of America, and he evokes someone else’s military service as a cloak for his opinion.”

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith took a different approach in responding to Brees’ comments. He thinks Brees has opened the door for dialogue and transparent communication.

“Here is what I think everybody is missing – this is a victory for communication. I actually don’t mind that this happened … The reality is that if you didn’t have folks like that, out there revealing what they truly, truly feel, then there would still be a plethora of people outside of the black community all over the place asking, ‘What are y’all upset about? What’s the problem?’ You don’t get to do that now because just a semblance of what is taking place out there was revealed by Drew Brees yesterday.”

Stay tuned for more updates.