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Drew Brees Apologizes for Anthem Kneeling Comments: ‘It Breaks My Heart to Know the Pain I Have Caused’

Wednesday, the Saints quarterback drew criticism for saying he didn’t agree

Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday for his Wednesday comments classifying kneeling during the national anthem as “disrespecting the flag.”

“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,” the athlete wrote on Instagram and Twitter.

He went on, “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.”

Brees stated he takes responsibility for the comments, stands with the black community against systemic racism and police brutality and is committed to listening when people of color talk about their experiences.

The apology came after he was slammed Wednesday by fellow pro athletes and sports journalists for his original statement. When asked during a Yahoo Finance interview how he would feel if players started kneeling during the anthem Colin Kaepernick-style when the NFL season restarts, Brees said, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”

His own teammate, wide receiver Michael Thomas, seemed to respond on Twitter when he posted a single emoji indicating he felt sick. Thomas’ tweet came in response to Bleacher Report NFL columnist Mike Freeman, who quipped, “How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their first response when asked about it is ResPEcC tHe fLAg.”

“Drew Brees couldn’t even directly say he understood why Colin protested injustice nor that he understood the anger of many black americans. He just talked about what the flag means to him. But he posted a black box on instagram like he did somethin. That’s the issue,” wrote Turner Sports’ Taylor Rooks, referring to Tuesday’s “blackout” on social media, during which companies and individuals posted blank, black screens, ostensibly in honor of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.

Brees did, in fact, post the black box on Instagram, which became the same platform he used to walk back his comments about the kneeling protest.