Drew Brees is criticized by LeBron James after comments about 'disrespecting the flag'

Chuck Schilken
LA Times
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is facing backlash for his recent comments on players who kneel during the national anthem. <span class="copyright">(Tim Sharp / Associated Press)</span>
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is facing backlash for his recent comments on players who kneel during the national anthem. (Tim Sharp / Associated Press)

Drew Brees is facing backlash for his stance that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to the U.S. and its flag.

During an interview with Yahoo Finance, the New Orleans Saints quarterback was asked the prospect of such protests, started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, returning in force this year in the aftermath of George Floyd's death and the unrest that has followed.

"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said. "Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and 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, 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's been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the '60s 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 part of the solution."

Lakers star LeBron James retweeted a clip of Brees making the comments and wrote: "You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of [U.S. flag] and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those 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!"

Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas appeared to reference his quarterback's comments with tweets that read, "He don’t know no better" and "We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that."

Thomas also added a nauseated emoji to a retweet of a comment by NFL writer Mike Freeman that read, "How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their first response when asked about it is ResPEcC tHe fLAg."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wrote on Instagram: "A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."

Brees addressed the controversy in a text message to ESPN.

"I love and respect my teammates and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice," he 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."

Brees and his wife, Brittany, have a long history of helping with charitable causes. They recently pledged $5 million to coronavirus relief efforts in Louisiana.

"I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life," he said in his text to ESPN. "Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don't have it? ... My ACTIONS speak for themselves."

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