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Drew Brees apologizes for comments on flag disrespect

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees issued two separate apologies Thursday for his comments about kneeling during the national anthem that received intense criticism the previous day.

Brees said during an interview with Yahoo Finance he "will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country" when asked about players possibly kneeling during the anthem to bring awareness to social injustice, as Colin Kaepernick did in 2016, during the 2020 season.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback was roundly condemned for his comments by current teammates like Cam Jordan, Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Malcolm Jenkins, NFL leaders like Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans staples like actor Wendell Pierce.

On Thursday morning, Brees issued an initial apology on Instagram for his comments and the pain and frustration they caused.

The statement in full:

I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.

In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.

This is where I stand:

I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference.

I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today.

I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community.

I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement.

I will never know what it's like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right.

I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy.

I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening...and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen.

For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

View this post on Instagram

I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening...and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on

Brees issued a second apology Thursday night -- this time via a video on Instagram.

In the video Brees says, "I know that there's not much I can say that will make things any better right now. But I just want you to see it in my eyes how sorry I am for the comments that I made yesterday. I know that it hurt many people, especially friends, teammates, former teammates, loved ones, people that I care and respect deeply. That was never my intention. I wish I would have laid out what was on my heart in regards to the George Floyd murder, Ahmaud Arbery, the years and years of social injustice, police brutality and the need for so much reform and change in regards to legislation and so many other things to bring equality to our black communities. I am sorry and I will do better and I will be part of the solution. And I am your ally. And I know no words will do that justice."

Saints linebacker Demario Davis responded to Brees' first apology during a Thursday morning appearance on CNN.

"Hearing Drew's apology, and that's the first I heard it, I think that is a form of true leadership. And I would say it because that's taking ownership," Davis said. "What we had hoped the first time was that Drew would elaborate more on racism and the sentiments of the black community, and he admitted 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 do is 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 of America. Because historically, in general, most of America has missed the mark in not hearing the cries.

"These are not new cries coming out on behalf of the black community. The black community has been crying for a long time. Now it's turned into a global outcry that it's time to stand up for black lives and make sure that they're not being killed in the streets and putting an end to racism and systematic injustice that's plagued this country for so long."

Davis continued: "And for him to admit that he was wrong and say, you know what, I can do better and I will do better, I think that is leadership at its finest. It's not easy to come out and admit when you're wrong. For a long time, I feel like a lot of people have taken that posture of not wanting to admit that they're wrong. And for him to do that, I think that's very symbolic of America, especially all the ethnic groups that aren't people of color, or black people, in understanding, hey, it's OK. You might have gotten it wrong, but don't get it wrong now.

"And that's what we have to be as a country. We can't get it wrong this time. We all have played a part also in helping try to direct the narrative away from the issues. We've all played a part in that, in getting caught up in different topics. At the end of the day, police brutality in America is a problem, racism in America is a problem, systematic injustice is a problem. And the reason why there are millions of people of all different backgrounds, all different colors, all different ethnic groups in the streets right now protesting, and around the world protesting on behalf of black lives, is because it's a global outcry. Because racism exists, systematic injustice exists, police brutality exists, especially around black people, and we need to fix it. And that's the most important thing."

Wide receiver Michael Thomas, who tweeted criticism of Brees' comments Wednesday, said Thursday that he accepted Brees' apology.

Saints offensive lineman Terron Armstead wrote on Twitter that he spoke with Brees and a few of his teammates and that "we know that accountability and responsibility is the only way to move forward from this."

"I could've easily got on social media and attacked @drewbrees yesterday," Armstead wrote. "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.... Speaking with him and a few of my teammates we know that accountability and responsibility is the only way to move forward from this. The message has to be clear! The stance has to be clear! Time to put our words into action!.... 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...."

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