New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday for earlier comments about “disrespecting the flag,” saying he “completely missed the mark” and stands with the black community in the “fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality.”
Brees’ apology on Instagram came one day after he gave an interview to Yahoo Finance and was asked how the NFL should respond to players kneeling during the national anthem following the ongoing protests.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” Brees said in the interview. “... 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.”
The national anthem, he said during the interview, “shows unity.”
“It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better,” Brees said. “And that we are all part of the solution.”
In the Yahoo Finance interview, Brees also said, “God created us all equal and I think that we all have a responsibility to love each other and to respect each other.”
His remarks on the flag drew pushback from teammates and black leaders. The controversy was the lead story on ESPN’s news coverage Wednesday.
Teammate Malcolm Jenkins called the comments “extremely painful.”
Brees posted his apology Thursday morning.
“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,” Brees wrote. “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,” 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.
“This is 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,” Brees 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.
“I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right.
“I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy,” Brees wrote in his concluding remarks. “I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. 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. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Sean Gardner/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.