New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has issued an apology after doubling down on comments he made Wednesday about disrespecting the American flag. Brees, 41, who won a Super Bowl with the Saints a decade ago, took to Instagram and told his 1.6 million followers that his remarks were “insensitive.”
"In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused," Brees said on the Instagram post. "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.”
The lengthy statement featured an image of a white hand holding a black hand in solidarity.
"I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability," he added. "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 Wednesday afternoon, Brees ignited a firestorm of controversy after he told Yahoo Finance he found it disrespectful to the flag if players knelt before games in the forthcoming season.
“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,” he said.
He said he believed that standing up during the anthem is honoring the military.
“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 said.
Later in the day, in a text exchange with ESPN, he doubled down on his comments.
"I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms," Brees told ESPN via text. "That includes all those who marched for women's suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us ... EVERYONE ... represent that flag. Same way I respect all the citizens of our country ... no matter their race, color, religion.
Social media lit up with people objecting to Brees’ stance, including Malcolm Jenkins who said in a since-deleted video directed at his quarterback, "shut the f*** up."
"Our communities are under siege, and we need help," an emotional Jenkins said in one of the videos on Instagram. "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."
NBA icon LeBron James slammed Brees’ stance, saying what Colin Kaepernick did and other players who wish to take a knee is not disrespectful.
“Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??” James wrote on Twitter.
“The Wire” star Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans resident, also slammed his city’s quarterback in a lengthy Twitter statement.
“My 95yr old father fought in WWII at Saipan risking his life for the United States of America, a country that had little respect for him When he returned to New Orleans he was denied his right to vote, his right to live where he wanted & most of his civil rights,” he wrote.