UPDATED: 12:40 p.m.
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.
“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," Brees said to Yahoo Finance Wednesday.
In 2016, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem, his decision was seen by many as controversial, but it created a highly visible anti-racism movement among other NFL players and athletes.
Saints safety and former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, who in the past has raised his fist during the national anthem to bring awareness to racial and social injustice, said Brees has no ground to dismiss that movement or its methods.
He issued one of the most notable responses to Brees' initial comments.
“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 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 and the airwaves, are the problem," he said in a video he posted in response to Brees.
“And then here we are in 2020 with the whole country on fire, everybody witnessing a Black man dying, being murdered at the hands of the police just in cold blood for everybody to see ... and the first thing that you do is criticize one’s peaceful protest that was years ago when we were trying to signal a sign for help and signal for our allies and our white brothers and sisters, the people we considered to be friends, to get involved."
Jenkins said Brees doesn’t understand his privilege and the potential he has to be an advocate.
“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?”
Brees participated in Blackout Tuesday. He has shown sympathy on social media. He donated $5 million to COVID-19 relief. But many of his peers were still infuriated by his initial remarks.
NFL Hall of Famer and current FS1 host Shannon Sharpe called Brees' apology meaningless.