On Wednesday, Drew Brees kicked up a storm with comments he made in an interview with Daniel Roberts of Yahoo! Finance.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” said the longtime New Orleans Saints quarterback. “Let me just tell 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, not just those in the military, but for that matter but those through the civil rights movements of the 1960s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is 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 that we are all part of the solution.”
On Thursday, Brees apologized for his remarks 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.
Prior to his apology, Brees had endured attacks from players from all over the NFL — consisting of a number of Kansas City Chiefs players — including star safety (and New Orleans native) Tyrann Mathieu.
Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward first responded by tweeting a series of mock clown emojis but then struck a more serious note.
We just want that “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” we were promised!! So if we continue to get killed for being black... we gone keep kneeling & keep fighting!!— Charvarius Ward (@itslilmooney) June 3, 2020
Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson also took issue with Brees on Twitter.
I bet you my grandpa rollin in his grave.. to know he fought for this country 10+ years. And his grandson fear for his life being pulled over by the police. because the color of his skin. Make sense of that for me. Not asking you to feel my pain, but understand where I stand.
And then new Chiefs cornerback Antonio Hamilton joined in.
I would’ve rather @drewbrees say nothing than to make that comment... smh ♂️— Antonio Hamilton (@UnitedSt8Of_Ham) June 4, 2020
As editor-in-chief Pete Sweeney and I discussed during the Thursday edition of the Arrowhead Pride Editor’s Show podcast, this all goes back to then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the playing of the national anthem in 2016.
At the time, Kaepernick (and other NFL players who eventually joined him) made it clear that his action was intended to draw attention to the issue of police brutality in the United States — particularly against people of color.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media after he knelt during the anthem before a 49ers’ preseason game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
At another preseason game just days later, Kaepernick remaining standing during “God Bless America” — and then knelt for the anthem. “Once again, I’m not anti-American,’’ he later told reporters. “I love America.”
As far as Kaepernick was concerned, the issue was not about the flag, but instead about the government it represents — one that was refusing to take action when its citizens faced violence at the hands of police.
NFL fans debated whether Kaepernick chose an appropriate way to stage his protest, and there is no doubt that his message was lost in the furor his method caused — which in no small part was due to NFL players and teams (along with journalists) focusing on the medium instead of the message.
And in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery — and many others whose names we do not know — Kaepernick’s message is now on the lips of millions of Americans.
Neither Pete or I then held our current positions. But we also agree that we could easily have done the same thing: to allow the message to be obscured by the medium. We can’t do anything about what happened in 2016. But we can promise to do a better job today.
We know that for many of our readers, sports are an escape from the stresses and rigors of everyday life. We promise to remember that. But we also promise that in those rare moments where the line between them becomes blurred — like we have seen in the past week — we will always do our best to tell the real story.
It’s time everything changes....— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) June 4, 2020
On this one, we stand with the Honey Badger.