- The Washington Times
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

As protests erupt around the country related to George Floyd’s death, many have pointed out that police brutality was the reason Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in 2016.

But Drew Brees said Wednesday he still sees the act of kneeling during the playing of “Star-Spangled Banner” as disrespectful.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback’s remark came during an interview with Yahoo Finance about whether he thinks players will start kneeling again when the NFL season begins due to Floyd’s death. That comment soon drew considerable backlash on social media as prominent athletes like LeBron James and Richard Sherman sounded off on the 41-year-old.

Floyd, a black man, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

“I’ll never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “Let me just tell you what I see, or what I feel, when I look at the flag of the United States: I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II … both risking their lives to protect our country and 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. In many cases it brings me to tears, thinking all that’s been sacrificed.”

Brees became a trending topic on Twitter, with James among the many to weigh in.

“You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??” James wrote. “Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of (the flag).”

Even one of Brees‘ most prominent teammates appeared to take a shot at his quarterback. New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas tweeted: “He don’t know no better” and “We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that.”

Thomas also quote-tweeted a reporter’s comment — “How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their first response when asked about it is ResPEcC tHe fLAg.” — and added a nauseated face emoji.

Sherman called Brees “beyond lost,” adding talking about the military during a conversation about police brutality is “part of the problem.” New England Patriots defensive backs Jason and Devin McCourty said Brees‘ comments were “a disgrace.” New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart said the protests aren’t about disrespecting the flag.

Former NFL receiver Doug Baldwin, who is black, struck a harsher tone.

“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,” Baldwin tweeted at Brees. “Drew, you are the problem.”

This isn’t the first time Brees has spoken out about the issue. In 2016, Brees said he “wholeheartedly” disagreed with Kaepernick’s method of protesting, calling the flag “sacred.”

On Wednesday, Brees posted a social awareness statement to his Instagram, urging young people to ask what difference they can make in the world.

Brees also defended himself further to ESPN, texting he stands with his teammates “in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice.” But, he said, he also stands with the men and women in the military.

“Is everything right with our country right now? No it’s not,” Brees told Yahoo. “We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, it shows unity. It shows we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we all are part of the solution.” 

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