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Drew Brees apologizes for saying Kaepernick and others disrespect the flag by kneeling

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leaves the field following a game against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 29
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday, a day after reiterating his opposition to Colin Kaepernick and others kneeling during the national anthem.
(Brian Blanco / Associated Press)

Drew Brees apologized Thursday for comments that were “insensitive and completely missed the mark” when he reiterated his opposition to Colin Kaepernick and others kneeling during the national anthem, drawing sharp criticism from fellow high-profile athletes and others in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James, New Orleans 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 Wednesday in an interview with Yahoo 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.

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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 pressed a knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

In an Instagram post Thursday, Brees said he was apologizing to his friends, teammates, New Orleans, the black community, the NFL community and “anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday.”

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“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,” he wrote. “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.”

Kaepernick hasn’t yet responded to the initial comments by Brees, but he did retweet a post by Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma before Brees’ apology.

“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, he participated with teammates who knelt before the national anthem but then stood in unison when the anthem was played.

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James, who has been a leader in the social justice movement, said Wednesday he couldn’t believe Brees was still confused about what Kaepernick was trying to do.

“You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??” James tweeted. “Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of [American flag emoji] and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free.”

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.”

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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.”


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