Drew Brees had a flag thrown against him by several athletes -- including a teammate -- after his controversial comments about not supporting players who kneel during the national anthem.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback is facing backlash after his comments during an interview with Yahoo Finance.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees, who is preparing for his 20th season in the NFL, said during the interview.
Brees then referenced the memory of his grandfathers, who fought during World War II, and also discussed the sacrifices made by people during the civil rights movement.
Brees drew sharp criticism from several athletes on social media, including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
Brees’ teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, also criticized the quarterback, posting an emotional video on Instagram that contained anger and some obscenity.
“Drew’s words during his interview were extremely painful to hear and I hope he rectifies them with real action,” Jenkins said in his video.
Rodgers also posted on Instagram, using a photo of himself and his Green Bay teammates locking arms during the national anthem.
“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. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action,” Rodgers wrote.
Sherman said Brees was “beyond lost.”
“Guarantee you there were black men fighting alongside your grandfather but this doesn’t seem to be about that,” Sherman wrote. “That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem."
James wasn’t giving Brees a pass either, writing on Twitter that the Saints’ star did not understand why quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee before the national anthem during the 2016 season.
“You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?” James wrote on Twitter.
Other former athletes, including Ed Reed, former Detroit defensive lineman Damon Harrison and former NBA star Stephen Jackson also weighed in.
“Bad timing Drew Brees, bad timing bruh,” Jackson said in an Instagram video. "All right, you play for New Orleans, you live in New Orleans. All of them black people support you. Drew Brees, you gotta be a little more sensitive to the timing bruh.”
“I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regard to fighting for racial equality and justice,” Brees told ESPN on Wednesday. “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.”
Thursday morning Brees took to Instagram to apologize for his comments.
“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,” Brees said in a statement posted Thursday morning on Instagram.
He acknowledged that while speaking Wednesday with Yahoo! he “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,” Brees wrote. “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.”
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