UPDATE: Brees has uploaded an additional apology message to his Instagram, this time through a recorded video. You can read more about it here.
After his comments about peacefully protesting during the national anthem drew wide-spread condemnation Wednesday, New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees issued a lengthy apology Thursday morning.
"I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the city of New Orleans, the black community, the NFL community and anyone hurt by 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 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 I 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 systematic 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 or the plight of the black community.
- I recognize that I am a part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement.
- I will never know what it is like to be a black man or to 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 ask for your forgiveness."
Wednesday, Brees was asked if he's changed his long-held opposition to peacefully protesting during the national anthem to raise awareness to police brutality against African-Americans.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees told Daniel Roberts of Yahoo! Finance.
"Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers - who fought for this country during World War II, one in the army and one in the marine corps - both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that's what I think about. And in many cases it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed - not just those in the military, but for that matter those throughout the civil rights movements of the 1960s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. 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 a part of the solution."
Brees gave a second statement - this one to ESPN's Mike Triplett - after the clip began to draw backlash.
"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."
It is worth noting that Saints' defensive end Marcus Davenport did defend Brees' comments, as did former wide receiver Joe Horn. However, other Saints' stars - Michael Thomas, Cameron Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders - all ripped the comments on social media. LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers were among the other sports stars that responded with backlash to Brees' initial comments.
Jenkins - who began peacefully protesting during the national anthem by raising a fist in 2016 - may have had the most stinging comments in an Instagram video.
"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," Jenkins concluded his 4:20 video by saying.
Jenkins initially posted the video and then deleted it, though after speaking with Brees he reposted the video and explained his reasoning.
"All in all, I’m still posting this video because it’s important for anyone who wants to consider themselves an ally to know how these words and actions affect those who you want to help. Drew’s words during his interview were extremely painful to hear and I hope he rectifies them with real action."