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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees pushed back against President Donald Trump on Friday night, just days after he and Trump were seemingly on the same side about protests during the national anthem at NFL games.
Brees told Yahoo Finance earlier this week that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag” when asked about the possibility of players protesting again during the national anthem this season. He later apologized multiple times following immense criticism and backlash from all corners of the sports world, including from his own teammates.
Trump, however, responded to Brees’ comments on Friday afternoon.
Trump, a “big fan” of Brees, said he “should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American flag.”
...We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
Brees: ‘It has never been’ about the flag
Brees posted an Instagram message directly to Trump on Friday night, calling him out for turning the protests about racial and social justice into an issue about disrespecting the flag.
“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been,” Brees wrote. “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.
“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.
“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?
“We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”
Trump was perhaps the most vocal critic of Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem when the former quarterback started kneeling in 2016, and even continued talking about it at campaign rallies the next year. Vice President Mike Pence even staged a walkout at a game he attended in Indianapolis between the Colts and the 49ers after several San Francisco players knelt during the anthem in 2017 — something they were widely expected to do.
Brees wasn’t alone in pushing back, either. After countless players and other athletes have reiterated that the protests had nothing to do with disrespecting the flag or the United States military and called for the NFL to address systematic racism and oppression of black Americans, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued an apology video on Friday afternoon.
“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Goodell said in the video, in part. “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”
Teammates support Brees’ letter to Trump
Brees’ letter to Trump appears to have gone over extremely well with his teammates, some of whom praised him almost instantly.
A big part of leadership is admitting when you are wrong, and correcting your mistake. A model that All of America can follow, admit the wrong done to the black community, fix the issues and WE ALL move forward together. Let’s all stand together now and find solutions. https://t.co/8RG3wMeiSd
— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) June 6, 2020
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