On Saturday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees spoke to local media as NFL pre-season training begins to ramp up.
Brees opened with a statement regarding the controversy surrounding his June 3 interview with Yahoo Finance during which he was asked about anthem-kneeling.
The quarterback stated that he has always “felt compelled to serve,” which is allegedly why he and his wife moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. After expressing that his time in the city has been incredibly “rewarding,” Brees addressed the interview directly.
NOLA has provided the following partial transcript:
Going back to my comment on June 3, to think for a second that New Orleans or the state of Louisiana or the black community would think that I was not standing with them for social justice, that completely broke my heart. It was crushing. Never, ever would I feel that way.
I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day. I had an opportunity to talk about and emphasize the social injustices that exist for our black community and our need as a country to support them and to advocate for systemic change. And my lack of awareness in that moment hurt a lot of people.
Brees continued, saying that he “will always stand for the flag because of what it means to me, and to honor all those who have sacrificed, who have served and died for our country, and all those who have struggled to move this country forward.”
However, the quarterback added that he respects those who kneel or otherwise peacefully protest in order to “bring attention to the social injustices and systemic racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country.”
Brees continued, saying that he “will always support and advocate for the black and brown communities in the fight for social injustices,” and that he “feels a great sense of responsibility to serve and to lead and to bring true equality to everyone.”
Brees has been dogged by controversy ever since an early-June interview with Yahoo Finance Editor-at-Large Daniel Roberts.
During the interview, Roberts asked Brees about kneeling during the national anthem, as it was likely to return in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Brees replied, saying that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country.”
He continued, speaking about what the American flag and the national anthem meant to him personally.
The quarterback concluded: “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 showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.”
For his remarks, Brees was dragged.
After the backlash, he issued the following apology on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
On June 5, the quarterback addressed President Trump directly, writing in part:
Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.
We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.
View this post on Instagram
To @realdonaldtrump Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.