Drew Brees and Donald Trump have gone back and forth this week on a divisive issue.
After receiving significant criticism from teammates, opponents, and the general public for his stance, Brees apologized on Instagram to those he may have offended, saying his comments were insensitive. He wrote: “I’m sorry it has taken this long to act and to participate in a meaningful way but I am your ally in this fight.”
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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.
President Trump took umbrage with Brees’s revised viewpoint, writing in a series of tweets: “he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.”
Trump made it clear he still doesn’t condone kneeling during the national anthem, a polarizing form of protest that began when Colin Kaepernick took a knee in 2016 and is still widely discussed and debated today.
…We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
Brees then wrote Trump a letter on social media, responding that he believes this is “not an issue about the American flag.” He said the flag shouldn’t be used as a means of turning people away or distracting them from real issues that face Black communities.
“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week,” Brees wrote Friday night. “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?”