UPDATE: Drew Brees has issued an apology after receiving backlash for his comments about kneeling during the National Anthem.
The professional athlete took to social media on Thursday to ask for "forgiveness" following his "insensitive" remarks.
"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," Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback, began. "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," Brees continued. "This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character."
Brees went on to say he will step up and help fight for social justice.
"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," the NFL star told his followers. "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," Brees added. "I have 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. 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," Brees concluded his message. "For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness."
NFL quarterback Drew Brees can add one more fumble to his career total.
The New Orleans Saints star is the latest public figure to spark backlash over his comments surrounding his beliefs on the National Anthem and the United States flag.
On Wednesday, Yahoo Finance interviewed Brees and asked him about his stance on the recent nationwide protests in response to George Floyd's death, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on Monday, May 25.
"I think my response via social media today was basically to reinforce my belief that God created us all equal and I think that we all have a responsibility to love each other and to respect each other," Brees said. "I think that we accomplish greater things as a community, as a society and as country when we do it together."
When asked about NFL players participating in Colin Kaepernick's "take a knee" National Anthem protest against police brutality, Brees shared his thoughts
"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," he stated. "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," he continued. "And in many cases, in brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed—not just those in the military—but... those throughout the Civil Rights Movements of the '60s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point."
While Brees pointed out that things in our country aren't "right" during this time, he also expressed how important the National Anthem is to him.
"I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag, with your hand over your heart, is it shows union," he stated.
Soon after his video interview made the rounds online, many athletes called Brees out.
LeBron James wrote, "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."
Adding, "Men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong! God bless you."
NFL stars Devin McCourty and Jason McCourty also responded to Brees' comments.
"This is a disgrace! To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren't black men fighting next to them," the brothers' joint statement read. "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!"
Additionally, Aaron Rodgers pointed out Brees' hypocrisy.
"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," Rodgers wrote on Instagram, alongside an image of players locking arms during an NFL game. "Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let's educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."
Richard Sherman also spoke out: "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."
"How can you be in the locker rooms, speaking to the players, know the reasoning, and yet still be dumb enough to believe it's about the flag. Like HOW???? He should know better than that. He just doesn't care. Damn man not Drew...," Damon Harrison Sr. shared on Twitter.
He added, "Like HOW?????? Im just wondering about those fake conversations he had in that locker room with his teammates at the height of it all."
As some have pointed out, including Rodgers, Brees may have not agreed with taking a knee but he was vocal about supporting Kaepernick and his decision to speak up about the racial injustice.
In regards to the backlash surrounding his comments, Brees issued a statement obtained by ESPN.
"I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice," Brees said. "I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis."
(This story was originally published on Wed, Jun 3, 2020, 4:27 p.m. PST)