Drew Brees apologizes after anthem comments outrage Malcolm Jenkins, others

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UPDATED: 12:40 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has apologized after upsetting his peers and people around the country with comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

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.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Jun 4, 2020 at 5:22am PDT

  Yahoo Finance asked Brees how he thinks the NFL will and should respond to players kneeling during the anthem now, after the latest outrage over police brutality, and what his responsibility is as a leader during a time like this.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” Brees said.

Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about "players kneeling again when the NFL season starts."@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed

— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020

In his apology Thursday, Brees wrote, "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. ...

“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. 

He said he considered Brees a friend, “but sometimes you should shut the f--- up.”

Malcolm Jenkins emotional on his IG on new/old teammate Drew Brees’ comments“We need help”“I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re someone I had a great deal of respect for.But sometimes you should shut the f*** up”(NSFW)-- @MalcolmJenkins pic.twitter.com/4UxEJKXxM3

— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) June 3, 2020

Jenkins later deleted the video and posted a new one to explain "how those of us struggling with what’s going on feel." 

I recorded a few videos when thinking of how to respond to Drew Brees, I don’t take any of it back-I meant what I said-I removed the 1st video because I knew it be more about the headlines. I want people to understand how those of us struggling with what’s going on feel pic.twitter.com/T054qt0YEz

— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) June 3, 2020

“To think that because your grandfathers served in this country and you have a great respect for the flag, that everybody else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do is ridiculous. And it shows that you don’t know history, because when our grandfathers fought for this country and served and they came back, they didn’t come back to a hero’s welcome,” Jenkins said, becoming emotional. “They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. ...

“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.

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, a friend of George Floyd, said this isn’t the time for such remarks.

Stephen Jackson responded to Drew Brees saying he will "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag."(via @DaTrillStak5) pic.twitter.com/56ZyC2W8yY

— ESPN (@espn) June 4, 2020

Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, corner Darius Slay and defensive back Jalen Mills said they stand by Jenkins for calling out Brees.

The Lakers' LeBron James was incredulous that Brees seemed not to understand why Kaepernick took a knee in 2016.

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

Saints linebacker Demario Davis told CNN he was impressed by the apology.

JUST NOW: "For him to admit that he was wrong.. I think that is leadership at its finest."New Orleans @Saints linebacker @demario__davis reacts to hearing @dreabrees' apology in real time. pic.twitter.com/ynY2Ssy6je

— Alli Hedges Maser (@AllisonLHedges) June 4, 2020

One of my brothers made a public statement yesterday that I disagreed with. He apologized & I accept it because that’s what we are taught to do as Christians. Now back to the movement! #GeorgeFloyd

— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 4, 2020

However, others weren't buying it, including the 76ers' Tobias Harris, who dragged Brees on Twitter.

Take this for what it is, if you're trying to issue an apology, a press release is not the route. Take your ass on camera and apologize. Then go take some actions forward to show us/yourself that you actually are sorry. Morning @drewbrees

— Tobias Harris (@tobias31) June 4, 2020

Hours before the Saints quarterback made his remarks to Yahoo Finance, The Players’ Tribune published an article by Harris. “Admit something’s wrong in this country, admit that this is about race, and let’s build a way forward,” Harris wrote.

NFL Hall of Famer and current FS1 host Shannon Sharpe called Brees' apology meaningless.

And Diana Russini of ESPN said Brees should expect some attention at the next Saints team meeting.

I’ve spoken to multiple players and coaches on the New Orleans Saints since Brees’ apology. Many are proud of Brees’ apology, some want to ask him directly more questions, it seems today’s team meeting there is going to be significant communication and discussion with their QB.

— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) June 4, 2020