On Wednesday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was interviewed by Yahoo! Finance reporter Daniel Roberts. When asked a question associated with kneeling during the national anthem, the future Hall of Famer’s response incited ire across the sports community.
As the 2020 NFL season inches closer amid coronavirus and racial inequality protests, fans and athletes are reminded of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem. His decision to take a knee nearly four years ago has been seen as both revolutionary and disrespectful.
Yahoo! Finance reporter Daniel Roberts asked Saints QB Drew Brees what he thought about players kneeling again when the NFL season starts. Brees’ response sent shockwaves through the sports community.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees answered. “Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played… I envision my two grandfathers… one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country… a better place.
“…Is everything right with our country right now? No, it’s not. We still have a long way to go,” Brees continued. “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.”
NBA superstar LeBron James was shocked by Brees’ comments. He claims the Saints quarterback still doesn’t understand what Kaepernick was demonstrating with his silent protest.
“Wow, man! Is it still surprising at this point? Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?” James tweeted. “[It] has absolutely nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country.”
Brees’ teammate Malcolm Jenkins was equally surprised by his quarterback’s response. Jenkins posted an emotional video on Instagram calling out his fellow athlete.
“Our communities are under siege, and we need help. And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way. Ask for it in a different way. I can’t listen to it when you ask that way,” Jenkins said. “We’re done asking, Drew. And people who share your sentiments, who express those and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers also chimed in, posting a picture of him and his teammates locking arms during the national anthem.
“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,” Rodgers wrote. “Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.”
After the onslaught of criticism, Brees released a public statement apologizing to his “friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, the NFL community” and anyone else negatively impacted by his comments.
“I would like to apologize… In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country,” Brees wrote. “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.
“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,” Brees added.