Drew Brees attempted to scramble out of trouble Thursday, offering up an apology after teammates, fans and celebrities slammed what were perceived as tone deaf remarks reiterating his opposition to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL player Martellus Bennett were just some of the high-profile athletes to criticize Brees on their Twitter feeds.
Brees, a New Orleans Saints quarterback who won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, was asked in an interview with Yahoo on Wednesday to revisit former NFL quarterback Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem before games to bring awareness of police brutality and racial injustice.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States,” Brees began, adding that the national anthem reminds him of his grandfathers, who served in the armed forces during World War II. “In many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed, and not just in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.”
Many athletes have repeatedly said the kneeling was not about disrespecting the flag or the military but instead about police brutality.
Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Floyd, a Minneapolis black man who was handcuffed as the officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
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Kaepernick hasn’t yet responded to the comments by Brees, but he did retweet a post by Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
“This shows you that there are a lot of people & companies out there right now that will say they stand with us but only do it so they dont get bashed not because they mean it,” Kuzma wrote above a photo of Brees kneeling alongside teammates before an NFL game.
Brees has previously said he supports those against police brutality but he does not see the national anthem as the proper forum. In 2017, Brees participated with teammates who knelt before the national anthem, but then stood in unison when the anthem was played.
James, who has been a leader in the social justice movement, said he couldn’t believe Brees was still confused about what Kaepernick was trying to do.
“WOW MAN!!” James wrote on Twitter. “Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of (American flag emoji) and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those.”
Bennett, who won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots and retired in 2018, posted a long thread saying none of the white quarterbacks in the league have spoken out when it wasn’t easy to do so.
“And y’all wanna applaud them for these statements, when y’all crucified every athlete that said something by protesting in the beginning,” Bennett wrote. “Look (I’m) happy they’re saying something.. but when they had a chance to make a big play for their black teammates and colleagues most of em remained silent, showed ignorance or didn’t say anything of importance when it was really needed.”
Jenkins, who was Brees’ teammate when the Saints won the Super Bowl, spent the past six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before returning to New Orleans this offseason. He posted a video of himself on Twitter speaking to his teammate.
“Drew Brees, if you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem,” Jenkins said. “To think that because your grandfathers served in this country that you have a great respect for the flag that everybody else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do is ridiculous.
“And it shows that you don’t know history. Because when our grandfathers fought for this country and served, they came back ... they didn’t come back to a hero’s welcome. They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. They came back to racism. To complete violence.”
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