On Wednesday, June 3, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees expressed his feelings about former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest against police brutality. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” said Brees in an interview with Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance. Brees’s statement drew widespread criticism from athletes, many of them black, who were disappointed or hurt by his comments. LeBron James tweeted, “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?? Has absolute [sic] 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.”
James was not alone with his criticism of Brees’s stance on Kaepernick’s protest. At a protest in New Orleans, the city to which Brees brought home a Super Bowl ring in 2009, protesters began a “Fuck Drew Brees” chant. Brees’s New Orleans Saints teammate and safety Malcolm Jenkins took to Instagram to express his feelings in a four-minute video. “Drew Brees,” begins an emotional Jenkins, “if you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem.” Jenkins continues to address Brees directly, saying, “And it’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes you should shut the fuck up.”
While Jenkins had a lot to say about Brees, Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas communicated his feelings by responding to Brees’s comments with just the green, nauseous emoji. Another Saints wide receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, also expressed his disappointment, writing on Twitter, “Smh.. Ignorant.” Killer Mike, who recently delivered a powerful speech for protesters in Atlanta, also weighed in on Brees’s comments in an interview with Jalen Rose, stating, “I would like to know what he considers disrespect.” Check out the response to Drew Brees’s comments about the Black Lives Matter movement below and remember that not all quarterbacks are created equally.
Update, June 4: Drew Brees has logged back on, captioning an “interracial handshake” stock photo with an apology for his previous comments on Instagram. “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,” Brees wrote in the Instagram caption. “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.”
Brees continued, outlining “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,” he wrote. “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.” The post veered into questionable territory when Brees added that he recognized “that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement,” and that he has “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,” he wrote. “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.”
Update, June 5: Drew Brees posted another apology to Instagram later on June 4, speaking directly to followers in a video. “I just want you to see in my eyes how sorry I am for the comments that I made yesterday. I know that it hurt many people,” he said. Brees went on to acknowledge “the need for so much reform and change … to bring equality to our black communities.” “I am sorry, and I will do better, and I will be part of the solution, and I am your ally,” he said. “And I know no words will do that justice.”