[WARNING: Comments in this article contain strong language]
During an interview with Yahoo Finance Editor-at-Large Daniel Roberts released on Wednesday, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was asked about kneeling during the national anthem, as it might happen again in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
“A lot of people expect that we will see players kneeling again if and when the NFL season starts,” said Roberts. “I’m curious how you think the NFL will and should respond to that. And of course, you’re such a leader in the league – what is your responsibility as a leader in times like this for the rest of your teammates and players in the league?”
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 and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during WWII – 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. And in many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed – and 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.
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.
Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about “players kneeling again when the NFL season starts.”@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020
The video has been viewed 7.2 million times as of publication, and Yahoo’s tweet of the clip has 14,600 “likes,” and has been retweeted 25,900 times.
After the clip went up, Brees was hit with massive backlash, including from other NFL players.
In perhaps the most pointed response, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins ripped Brees in a now-deleted video, in which he stated in part:
Our communities are under siege, and we need help. And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way, ask for it a different way. I can’t listen to it when you ask that way. We’re done asking, Drew. And people who share your sentiments, who express those, and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem. And it’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for – but sometimes you should shut the f*** up.
Bleacher Report tweeted a copy of the video portion:
“You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for, but sometimes, you should shut the f–k up.”
Malcolm Jenkins posts since-deleted video after Drew Brees’ comments about kneeling during the anthem pic.twitter.com/E2aWIlKWrI
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 3, 2020
Among other public criticisms, NBA star LeBron James tweeted:
men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitement. 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.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 3, 2020
Former football player Ian Williams tweeted:
Drew with what you said, we aren’t in this together and you aren’t apart of the solution. You are apart of the problem. @drewbrees I had the upmost respect for you. Someone as educated as you shouldn’t be this ignorant. Wow smh
— Ian Williams (@IWilliams95) June 3, 2020
Actress and writer Dani Fernandez tweeted:
The flag is a piece of cloth. The states are a collective of people, and one in particular that is horrifically brutalized since the inception of this country. Patriotism means nothing if the Black citizens of this nation are not protected under it
— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) June 3, 2020
According to ESPN, Jenkins deleted the original video, but posted another one that struck a similar tone:
The onslaught of sh** that we have to deal with is f***ing crazy right now. Drew Brees, if you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem. To think that because your grandfathers served in this country, and you have a great respect for the flag, that everybody else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do is ridiculous and it shows that you don’t know history.
“Because when our grandfathers fought for this country and served and they came back, they didn’t come back to a hero’s welcome, they came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms,” Jenkins continued.
Jenkins added that “with the whole country on fire,” Brees’ first priority shouldn’t be to “criticize one’s peaceful protest,” referring to the anthem-kneeling trend started by former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick.
“…when we step off this field and I take my helmet off, I’m a black man walking around America and I’m telling you I’m dealing with these things, I’m telling you my communities are dealing with these things, and your response to me is, don’t talk about that here, this is not the place. Where is the place, Drew?” Jenkins wondered.
After speaking further, Jenkins concluded the video, saying, “Even though we’re teammates, I can’t let this slide.”
I recorded a few videos when thinking of how to respond to Drew Brees, I don’t take any of it back-I meant what I said-I removed the 1st video because I knew it be more about the headlines. I want people to understand how those of us struggling with what’s going on feel pic.twitter.com/T054qt0YEz
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) June 3, 2020
Speaking with ESPN via text, Brees said that he stands with his teammates and others seeking “racial equality and justice.” The quarterback added, however, that everyone should “respect our country,” which includes those who have fought for freedom, as well as civil rights for women and minorities.
“All of us … EVERYONE … represent that flag,” Brees text.
The quarterback added that those who have an issue with his position should look to his actions for a glimpse into who he is as a person, and what he represents.
ESPN also noted that Brees has knelt with his teammates before, in London, but stood before the anthem played.
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