After overwhelming backlash from NFL players and the larger sports community on Wednesday, Brees issued an apology on Thursday after telling Yahoo Finance that he doesn’t want to see NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in the fall.
Saints All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas was one of the first and most prominent voices to condemn Brees on Wednesday. On Thursday, he was among the first Saints players to accept Brees’ mea culpa.
One of my brothers made a public statement yesterday that I disagreed with. He apologized & I accept it because that’s what we are taught to do as Christians. Now back to the movement! #GeorgeFloyd— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 4, 2020
As Brees’ top target, Thomas is a critical voice in shaping how the Saints move forward in the aftermath of Wednesday’s controversy. He wasn’t alone in responding to Brees’ apology.
Other Saints respond
Left tackle Terron Armstead, another player with a critical relationship with Brees, said he and some other teammates spoke with Brees directly. He wrote on Thursday that “accountability and responsibility is the only way to move forward.”
I could’ve easily got on social media and attacked @drewbrees yesterday. His comments were extremely insensitive, dismissive, and flat out disappointing. Knowing him personally and his character I decided not to do so, and addressed things internally....— Terron Armstead (@T_Armstead72) June 4, 2020
...The injustices, systemic oppression, policing, all these things the black community has cried out for, it’s time to become the solution and see real change....— Terron Armstead (@T_Armstead72) June 4, 2020
Running back Alvin Kamara said that he also spoke with Brees.
I’ve had a day to digest the comments that Drew made. I was disappointed and hurt. We talked and i explained to him where he dropped the ball and he understood. But now it’s time for us to be part of the solution, not the problem. We have to educate to progress.— Alvin Kamara (@A_kamara6) June 4, 2020
Linebacker Demario Davis spoke with CNN and called Brees’ apology a “form of true leadership.”
JUST NOW: "For him to admit that he was wrong.. I think that is leadership at its finest."— Alli Hedges Maser (@AllisonLHedges) June 4, 2020
New Orleans @Saints linebacker @demario__davis reacts to hearing @dreabrees' apology in real time. pic.twitter.com/ynY2Ssy6je
“I think that is a form of true leadership,” Davis said. “I would say it because that’s taking ownership. What we had hoped the first time that Drew would elaborate more on racism and the sentiments of the black community. And he admitted that he missed the mark.
“So for him to come out and say ‘I missed the mark. I’ve been insensitive, but what I’m going to start doing is listening and learning from the black community and finding ways that I can help them.’ I think that’s a model for all Americans.”
Davis and fellow Saints linebacker Craig Robertson appeared to show support for Brees’ apology on Instagram.
Top two people recognizing (and seemingly approving) Drew Brees’ apology: Demario Davis and Craig Robertson, both leaders inside the Saints locker room. pic.twitter.com/uDL1gWNsAw— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) June 4, 2020
What sparked the controversy?
Brees sparked the outcry when he told Yahoo Finance’s Daniel Roberts that he doesn’t agree with “anybody disrespecting the flag” when asked about NFL players kneeling again in the wake of the nationwide protests of George Floyd’s homicide while in custody of the Minneapolis police.
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
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.”
Brees framed his response in terms of his grandfathers fighting in wars, suggesting that players kneeling during the national anthem is a sign of disrespect to the military and patriotism instead of the true message of protesting police brutality and social injustice. It’s an argument that was used to stifle player protests and ultimately led to Colin Kaepernick’s exit from the NFL.
The civil and racial unrest of the last two weeks in America has shed new light on the peaceful NFL player protests with many coming to terms with their true message who hadn’t before.
After Wednesday’s backlash, Brees issued a formal apology on Thursday while stating that he’s an ally of the black community.
Jenkins, others haven’t responded
Brees has been one of the NFL’s and the Saints’ most popular players throughout his career in New Orleans. On top of the bigger issues his comments addressed, his initial statements threatened the tranquility of the Saints’ locker room as the team continues to pursue a Super Bowl behind the veteran quarterback.
For now, it sounds like some teammates are looking for a way to keep things together. Other critical teammates like Malcolm Jenkins have not yet addressed Brees’ apology.
More from Yahoo Sports: