New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will not be happy if players take a knee in protest during the 2020 season. Brees told Yahoo! Finance he viewed the gesture as disrespectful to the flag, which is something he “will never agree with.”
Brees, 41, also compared the sacrifices of those in the military to the sacrifices made by those who fought for civil rights.
Brees’ full answer:
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.
“I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.
“So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not.
“We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”
Brees’ comments about “disrespecting the flag” come days after Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn explained how Colin Kaepernick’s protest was misunderstood. In a wide-ranging interview with LZ Granderson of the Los Angeles Times, Lynn explained Kaepernick was protesting criminal justice reform and police brutality, not the flag.
“People completely misunderstood Colin and what he was trying to do,” Lynn said. “People talked about disrespecting the flag . . . the flag covers a lot — patriotism and civil rights and other things. And Colin was speaking out against the injustice and a lot of people didn’t catch on to that because it was happening during the national anthem. They thought it was disrespectful to the flag.”
“I was surprised by the number of people who didn’t know why he was protesting. I got letters from people. I had people walk up to me and ask, ‘Coach, what are you going to do if someone on your team protests?’ And I had to explain to them that Colin is taking a knee for criminal justice [reform] and police brutality and once you broke it down, they were like, “Oh, we didn’t know that. We thought he was protesting the flag.” And that was the case for a lot of people I came across.”
Kaepernick was inspired to take a knee during the national anthem after speaking to Nate Boyer, a retired Army Green Beret.
The death of George Floyd, and the protests surrounding his death, has sparked conversation over whether more NFL players will take a knee in 2020. A number of NFL players have spoken out following Floyd’s death, including Joe Burrow, D.K. Metcalf, Richard Sherman and Carson Wentz.
Floyd died in police custody after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe throughout the video. Bystanders urged Chauvin to assist Floyd.
Saints receiver Michael Thomas appeared to respond to Brees’ comments Wednesday.
On Tuesday, a Blackout Tuesday hashtag circulated encouraging people to take a break from social media to reflect on racism. A number of athletes, celebrities, companies and sports teams took part in the movement, including Brees.