NFL star Drew Brees has caused uproar in American sport with controversial comments about kneeling.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback drew the ire of NBA great LeBron James when he said he does not feel NFL players should kneel during the national anthem and called the gesture disrespectful to the American flag.
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Brees was asked during an appearance on Yahoo Finance's On the Move about the possibility of players protesting against racial injustice by kneeling during the anthem when the NFL's 2020 season kicks off in September.
Colin Kaepernick popularised the gesture of kneeling during pre-game renditions of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in 2016 while a member of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
He became a free agent after that season and hasn’t been able to sign anywhere since.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees told the program before explaining that when he hears the anthem he thinks of his two grandfathers who served in the military.
“Is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. We still have a long away to go.
“But, I think what you do by standing there and showing respect for the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity.”
Anthem demonstrations have all but disappeared but some feel they could return as the death last week of George Floyd sparked protests across the United States over police brutality.
LeBron James leads backlash against Drew Brees
The comments from Brees, widely regarded as one of the best passers in NFL history, did not sit well with a number of athletes, including three-times NBA champion James.
“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??” the Los Angeles Lakers forward posted on Twitter.
“Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of Flag of United States and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free.”
James also said his father-in-law fought for the United States and that he asked him questions about it and thanks him all the time.
“He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong! God bless you,” he added.
men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitement. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you. 🙏🏾✊🏾👑— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 3, 2020
NFL players condemn Drew Brees comments
A hoard of current and former NFL players also slammed Brees, including his Saints teammate Malcom Jenkins.
Jenkins posted a video telling Brees to “shut the f--- up” on Instagram.
The founding member of the Players Coalition and vocal black rights advocate has frequently pushed back against the faulty narrative that Kaepernick’s protest targeted patriotism and the military instead police brutality and social injustice.
He wasn’t hearing it from Brees in the midst of a national referendum on race relations.
Current #Saints Safety @MalcolmJenkins is also speaking up against tone-deaf @drewbrees— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) June 3, 2020
"We're done asking Drew!"
"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*ck up." pic.twitter.com/KPHinGuQR7
“Our communities are under siege, and we need help,” Jenkins said while pushing back tears.
“And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way. Ask a different way. I can’t listen to it when you ask that way.
“We're done asking Drew!
“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*ck up.”
Jenkins initially posted the video on Instagram before deleting it. He then posted another video within the hour where he again called Brees “a part of the problem.”
He wrote that he decided to post the second video after having a conversation with Brees.
“Drew Brees. If you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem,” Jenkins said.
“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.
“They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. They came back to people, to racism, to complete violence.”
This is a disgrace! To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren’t black men fighting next to them.Those men later returned to a country that hated them. Don’t avoid the issue and try to make it about a flag or the military. Fight like your grandfathers for whats right! https://t.co/qag3Igic3V— Devin&Jason McCourty (@McCourtyTwins) June 3, 2020
Drew Brees was once my teammate. Had a long intellectual talk with him in the cold tub once. Drew..... you’re a smart man. This ain’t ignorance. This is picking a side and not caring enough to fight for justice because you’re comfortable within your own bubble. Silence is murder!— Lamar Louis (@_ball_is_life23) June 3, 2020
.@drewbrees the reason my children have to live in a world that won’t empathize with their pain is because people like you are raising your children to perpetuate the cycle. Drew, you are the problem.— Douglas Baldwin Jr 🧢 (@DougBaldwinJr) June 3, 2020
How can you be in the locker rooms, speaking to the players, know the reasoning, and yet still be dumb enough to believe it’s about the flag. Like HOW???? He should know better than that. He just doesn’t care. Damn man not Drew...— Damon Harrison Sr. (@snacks) June 3, 2020
If you're still talking about players "disrespecting the flag" by kneeling during the national anthem clearly you're not ready for these conversations. Call a time out and come back later.— Julius Peppers (@juliuspeppers_) June 3, 2020
The real issue is that some don’t have the heart to understand or submit.— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) 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
With Yahoo Sports staff