New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees is facing backlash in response to critical comments made earlier Wednesday about the possibility of NFLers once again taking a knee to protest police brutality amid demonstrations across the U.S. and around the world over the death of George Floyd and systemic racism.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl seven years ago, brought the same issues to light by kneeling during the national anthem in the 2016 NFL season, sparking a wave of protests and debate across the league. Kaepernick, 32, hasn’t played since that campaign and he reached a settlement with the NFL last year in a grievance where he accused teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.
When asked by Yahoo Finance‘s Daniel Roberts how the NFL should respond if players take part in similar protests — as part of demonstrations over the recent death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — and what his responsibility is as a leader to address them, Brees did not offer his support.
“Well, I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played or 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 and looking at that flag and singing the national anthem — that’s what I think about,” said Brees.
“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, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s 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’s not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and show respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows we are all in this together. We can all do better. And we are all part of the solution.”
Brees’s rejection of this method of peaceful protest has drawn the ire of some of the sports world’s biggest names, including fellow NFLers and even teammates.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said the veteran QB’s comments make it clear that Brees still doesn’t understand why Kaepernick felt it necessary to speak out against police brutality.
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 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 https://t.co/pvUWPmh4s8
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 3, 2020
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman were chief among his current and former peers in the NFL to call out Brees for his views, with the forming noting that Kaepernick’s protest was “never about an anthem or a flag.”
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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. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action. #wakeupamerica #itstimeforchange #loveoverfear #solidarity #libertyandjusticeforall #all
.@drewbrees the reason my children have to live in a world that won’t empathize with their pain is because people like you are raising your children to perpetuate the cycle. Drew, you are the problem.
— Douglas Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) June 3, 2020
A number of Brees’ teammates on the Saints — including safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara — also expressed their disappointment over their quarterback’s comments.