American footballer Drew Brees, one of the best and best known players in the National Football League (NFL), apologized on Thursday for an interview in which he repeated that he is against kneeling during the national anthem.
"In an effort to talk about unity and solidarity around the flag and the national anthem, I said things about the current problems in our country that were numb and completely off the mark," 41-year-old Brees writes in a long post on Instagram. "It breaks my heart that I've caused so much pain."
New Orleans Saints quarterback and star is referring to an interview he gave to Yahoo Finance on Wednesday . When asked if he expects NFL players to make a statement against social inequality next season, he replied, "I will never agree with someone who disrespects the flag of the United States of America."
Brees thus referred to the manner of protest initiated by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. The then quarterback of San Francisco 49ers knelt before NFL duels while playing the US national anthem to draw attention to police brutality against minorities in the U.S.
Kaepernick and other players who followed his example were criticized because a good number of Americans found their statement disrespectful to the armed forces and the American flag. Brees also said at the time that he would always stand during the national anthem.
Kaepernick has been without a club in the NFL for more than three years because of his action, but his gesture has become an important symbol in the demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in recent weeks. Borussia Dortmund tweeted another photo of the entire selection on Thursday that forms a kneeling heart on the training field.
💛 #BorussiaVerbindet https://t.co/UKv5Y1GckLAvatar
Teammate furious with Brees
Many well-known American athletes reacted furiously to Brees' words on Wednesday. For example, top basketball player LeBron James wrote on Twitter that Brees "still does not understand why Kaepernick knelt". "It has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of respect for our soldiers," said James.
Malcolm Jenkins, a Brees teammate at the Saints and very vocal about US inequality for years, said in an emotional video on Instagram that Brees' words hurt him a lot. "I saw you as a friend. I looked up to you. But sometimes you have to shut up."
Brees says sorry to his teammates on Thursday. "My words have been divisive, when I just wanted to ensure unity. That is why people now see me as the enemy. And that is absolutely not correct. I support the black community in the fight against systematic injustice and police brutality."
Drew Brees' Instagram post (Source: Instagram / drewbrees)