METAIRIE, La. — After earlier sharing a message of unity on social media, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees attracted backlash Wednesday when he reiterated his stance on how he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America” during an interview with Yahoo Finance.
They were his first comments in the wake of George Floyd’s killing last week. Brees’ remarks on the flag drew a sharp rebuke on social media, including from Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
Brees gave a lengthy response to ESPN when asked about the perceived conflict between his stances — including a potential divide in his locker room, where players like Malcolm Jenkins and Demario Davis are among the leaders of the players’ coalition seeking social justice and racial equality.
“I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice,” Brees said. “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.”
The social media account belonging to brothers Devin McCourty and Jason McCourty of the New England Patriots called Brees’ comments “a disgrace.”
“To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren’t black men fighting next to them. Those men later returned to a country that hated them,” their tweet said. “Don’t avoid the issue and try to make it about a flag or the military. Fight like your grandfathers for whats right!”
James responded on Twitter, saying kneeling during the national anthem has “nothing to do with the disrespect of [the United States flag] and our soldiers.”
WOW MAN!! ??♂️. Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of ?? and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those https://t.co/pvUWPmh4s8
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 3, 2020
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
Brees’ comments were not specifically addressed by teammates immediately on Wednesday, though wide receiver Michael Thomas replied with a sickened emoji to a reporter’s tweet that read, “How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their first response when asked about it is ResPEcC tHe fLAg.”
Thomas also retweeted other comments directed at Brees’ statements.
Brees was outspoken in 2016 when he said he supported Colin Kaepernick’s desire to speak out against racial injustice but disagreed with Kaepernick’s method of protest during the national anthem.
He has not wavered from that stance — though he insisted Wednesday that his actions should represent what kind of a person he is.
“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 said via text message. “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.
“And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life. Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don’t have it? That’s what I meant by actions speak louder than words. … My ACTIONS speak for themselves.”
Brees was referencing his social media post from Wednesday morning, which began with the header, “Words to unite,” and talked about the importance of teaching and modeling to children “what it is to love all and respect all.”
“There is a saying in every locker room I have been in,” Brees wrote. “‘Don’t just talk about it, be about it.’ Acknowledge the problem, and accept the fact that we all have a responsibility to make it better. ‘Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.'”
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Words to unite.. A mentor of mine once told me that if you listen closely, the sound of children playing is the same no matter where you are in the world. The laughing, shouting, screaming, giggling… No matter what language you speak, no matter what your race, color, religion… the exact same. At some point we all change… The reasons… Our environment, experiences, education…The voices and influences around us. If you are reading this, you are probably one of those whose voice and influence is very powerful in the life of a young person. So when you ask what difference you can make in this world… It’s exactly that. Raise, teach, but most importantly model to young people what it is to love all and respect all. There is a saying in every locker room I have been in… Don’t just talk about it, be about it. Acknowledge the problem, and accept the fact that we all have a responsibility to make it better. “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying”
Brees and his wife, Brittany, have been heavily involved in charitable efforts throughout his 19-year NFL career, including a recent donation of $5 million to help Louisiana during the coronavirus pandemic.
Saints coach Sean Payton offered a passionate stance Tuesday, saying on social media that Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were “murdered not killed” and calling for change in the November elections.
Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Gayle Benson released a lengthy statement Monday, decrying police brutality and announcing the creation of a Social Justice Leadership Coalition within both organizations involving Davis, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick.
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