Patriots

Patriots

The events of the last several weeks have sparked many difficult but necessary conversations.

One involved retired tight end Ben Watson and his former New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.

Brees faced intense backlash last week for saying in an interview with Yahoo! Finance that he'll "never agree with" players who kneel during the national anthem -- a practice Colin Kaepernick started in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality in America -- because he feels it's disrespectful to the flag.

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Brees' comments came shortly after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes in a disturbing example of the police brutality Kaepernick was protesting against.

Brees' seemingly tone-deaf words angered many NFL players, but Watson -- who spent four years as Brees' teammate in New Orleans -- admitted he wasn't surprised.

"I know Drew. We’ve had this conversation before," Watson said Sunday night on the "Double Coverage Podcast" with ex-New England Patriots teammates Jason and Devin McCourty.

"Even though I wasn’t on the team with him in 2016 (when Kaepernick began his protest), I remember this happening and I remember him saying the exact same thing, so I wasn’t surprised."

Watson then revealed he and Brees spoke this past week, and that the veteran QB seemed contrite -- even if his fundamental beliefs haven't changed.

 

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"I spoke to him. We had a long conversation," Watson said. "He was really beat up about it. He was very remorseful not necessarily for his stance about the flag, but for being tone-deaf when he said it, and for not being able to bring the conversation back to where he could show the empathy that I know that he has."

Brees since has publicly apologized for his comments. Yet more important for Watson -- who in 2015 published a book about race in America titled, "Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race" -- is that Brees understands why his denouncement of Kaepernick's protest is hurtful to Black people.

“Since then he’s apologized and I forgive him for whatever needs to be forgiven," Watson said. "But I think the larger conversation is: 'What has he learned from here? how can he be more empathetic from here? 

" ... He doesn’t have to prove that he loves Black people to anybody. ... He cared before and was doing things in the community. But there has to be a conversation with many of those people who were legitimately, genuinely and rightfully hurt because of who he is and how people, especially in New Orleans, love him and look up to him."

Check out the McCourty twins' full conversation with Watson below: