Four years later, New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees isn't changing his stance. Even as the world protests racial injustices and police brutality after George Floyd, an African American man in Minneapolis, died in police custody, Brees still believes kneeling disrespects the flag.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country," Brees said Wednesday morning to Yahoo! Finance. "Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played or when 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 those who have sacrificed -- not just those in the military, but for that matter, those fought in the '60s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.
"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 we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution."
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.”— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/MpCkFyOMed
Many players around the NFL, including Brees' teammate Michael Thomas, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, former 49ers and current Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, took exception to Brees, a white man, making these comments, especially at this moment in history.
He don’t know no better.— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 3, 2020
We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that.— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 3, 2020
He’s beyond lost. Guarantee you there were black men fighting along side your grandfather but this doesn’t seem to be about that. That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem https://t.co/ON81UsOWPw pic.twitter.com/HH3EVTIH8p— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) June 3, 2020
Smh.. Ignorant— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) June 3, 2020
🤦🏽♂️.... This ain’t it https://t.co/XOew9MW6gu— Josh Jacobs (@iAM_JoshJacobs) June 3, 2020
Colin Kaepernick became the first athlete to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racial and social injustices in the 2016 season when he was a member of the 49ers. The 49ers played the Saints in New Orleans that season, losing 41-23. Kaepernick threw for a season-high 398 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the loss.
Kaepernick first sat on the bench during his protest, but after speaking with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret who spent time with the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper, the two agreed that kneeling would be more productive. Boyer supported Kaepernick's decision and even took a picture with him in September 2016.
Thanks for the invite brother... Good talk. Let's just keep moving forward. This is what America should be all about pic.twitter.com/LgjPpjk173— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) September 2, 2016
Kaepernick has not been signed by an NFL team since opting out of his 49ers contract ahead of the 2017 offseason. General manager John Lynch admitted in May 2017 the 49ers told Kaepernick they would have released him if he didn't opt out of his contract.
Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick by kneeling when he also was a member of the 49ers, and many others, believe Kaepernick was "blackballed" by the NFL for his protest. Kaepernick alleged NFL owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protest, but ultimately settled a collusion lawsuit with the NFL last year.
Thousands of people have been seen kneeling as a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism throughout the last week since Floyd's death. Protestors have been seen getting people of all colors and genders, along with cops as well, to kneel with them in solidarity.
This conversation will not stop, and there's reason to believe peaceful protests like kneeling will be seen when sports continue to bring more light to racism and police brutality in America.
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