Drew Brees: My lack of awareness hurt a lot of people

In the aftermath of making widely scrutinized comments in regard to NFL players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees issued a pair of apologies in June.

Brees reiterated his regret on Saturday in a conference call with members of the media.

"Going back to my comment on June 3, to think for a second that New Orleans or the state of Louisiana or the black community would think that I was not standing with them for social justice, that completely broke my heart," Brees said, via The Times-Picayune's Rod Walker. "It was crushing. Never ever would I feel that way. I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day. I had an opportunity to talk about and emphasize the social injustices that exist for our Black community and our need as a country to support them and to advocate for systemic change. And my lack of awareness in that moment hurt a lot of people."

Brees clarified that he will stand for the national anthem, but respects those who do not and will advocate for Black and Hispanic communities as he feels a responsibility to serve and lead. Brees added he has reconciled with his teammates who were upset by his comments, including Malcolm Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders.

"I will always stand for the flag because of what it means to me and to honor all those who have sacrificed, who have served and died for our country and all those who have struggled to move this country forward," Brees said. "I acknowledge and respect anyone who chooses to kneel or any other form of peaceful protest to bring attention to the social injustices and systemic racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country. I will always support and advocate for the Black and brown communities in the fight for social injustices. Always."

This offseason has been an unprecedented one for all involved in the NFL and beyond.

For Brees, though, it was one in which he also made the decision to forego retirement. He clarified Saturday that it was a serious consideration to hang up the cleats.

"It was definitely a decision I took very seriously," Brees said, via NOLA.com's Amie Just. "At the end of the day, I chose to come back for my team."

Returning to a team brimming with talent on both sides of the ball, the goal ahead is lofty and no surprise as Brees added the deciding factor of his return was to reach the Super Bowl.

"That's why I came back," he said, via John DeShazier of the team website.

Grand as the championship aspirations may be, however, Brees is well aware that the season ahead, considering the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, will loom larger than just vying for a Lombardi Trophy.

Said Brees: "This year is going to be about something much greater than football."