George Floyd protests: "We stand with you"
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NFL star Drew Brees struck a nerve with his comments about how kneeling during the American national anthem is “disrespecting the flag” as protests rage around the country championing racial equality.
Following the release of his interview with Yahoo Sports this week, the longtime New Orleans Saints quarterback has faced significant backlash for his response to a question about the possibility of NFL players kneeling — as former San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick and others did in 2016 — during the national anthem this upcoming season.
Brees said he can never support those actions.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” he said.
“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 Corp. 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, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed.”
Brees added he doesn’t believe everything is perfect in America, but said standing for the anthem with your hand over your heart shows “unity” and “shows that we are all in this together”.
Fans, Brees’ fellow New Orleans teammates and other athletes, like NBA megastar LeBron James, have denounced Brees’ comments about not agreeing with anyone who takes a knee during the national anthem.
“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 (the flag) and our soldiers who keep our land free.
“My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him a question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap’s peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you.”
Jason and Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots called Brees’ interview a “disgrace”.
“This is a disgrace! To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren’t black men fighting next to them,” the McCourty brothers’ joint Twitter account wrote. “Those men later returned to a country that hated them. Don’t avoid the issue and try to make it about a flag or the military. Fight like your grandfathers for what’s right!”
New York Jets safety Jamal Adams was also clearly disappointed in Brees.
“Dammit Drew…” Adams wrote.
Brees’ Saints teammate Emmanuel Sanders tweeted: “Smh (shaking my head) ... ignorant.”
New Orleans receiver also took aim on Twitter, writing: “We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that.”
ESPN Radio host Peter Rosenberg recorded a video response to a clip of Brees’ interview to offer his thoughts as well.
“Shout out to Drew Brees for officially becoming the captain of the, ‘You’re missing the point, white privilege, Hall of Fame’ club,” Rosenberg said.
Plenty of other NFL figures and punters on social media were quick to condemn Brees.
Is anyone really surprised an NFL quarterback whose spent 19 seasons getting clobbered and concussed still can’t understand the message?— Brad Wollack (@BradWollack) June 3, 2020
Educate yourself @drewbrees. And don’t just listen. Hear it. That’s our responsibility now more than ever.
He’s beyond lost. Guarantee you there were black men fighting along side your grandfather but this doesn’t seem to be about that. That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem https://t.co/ON81UsOWPw pic.twitter.com/HH3EVTIH8p— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) June 3, 2020
@drewbrees I suggest you do some research before making statements like that. Kap has said it himself it’s not about disrespect, it’s about oppression and police brutality against people of color.— Chris Bosh (@chrisbosh) June 3, 2020
1. It's been three years and Drew Brees still doesn't understand Colin Kaepernick's protest— Alex Finnis (@AlexFinnis) June 3, 2020
2. Drew Brees thinks a piece of cloth is more important than black lives
Dear @drewbrees: 1. you have the luxury to misinterpret what #takingaknee means. It will never be your life on the line. 2. You must’ve forgotten that this country was founded on protest. 3. You live in a part of US that still carries the Confederate Flag. ?????♀?#definerespect ???????— Sheetal Sheth (@sheetalsheth) June 3, 2020
Drew Brees is literally parroting right wing talking points.— Bryan Behar (@bryanbehar) June 3, 2020
Kneeling isn’t about disrespecting the flag.
It’s about asking this nation to actually, finally live up to the ideals embodied by that flag.
Shame on you @drewbrees. You should know better.
This story first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission