New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees urged President Donald Trump on Friday night to stop describing NFL players’ silent actions during the national anthem as disrespect for the U.S. flag as he walked back his own comments earlier this week about patriotism and protests.
In an Instagram post addressed directly to Trump, who had defended Brees’s criticism of social justice protests, the quarterback said: “Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag.”
“It has never been,” he added. “We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.”
Brees had told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday that he would “never agree with anyone” participating in national anthem protests during the NFL’s 2020 season.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” he had said.
But after many people, including his teammates and other NFL players, criticized Brees, he offered an apology Thursday and vowed to be an ally for the Black community in its fight against “systematic racial injustice.”
Trump tweeted on Friday, however, that Brees should not have disavowed his original statement.
Brees posted his first apology to Instagram on Thursday, acknowledging that his initial remarks “lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”
In the caption of a photo of a Black and white hand linked, Brees wrote:
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.
Brees later posted a video of him speaking to the camera, offering an apology again and drawing attention to the police killing of George Floyd and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, both of which have sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
“I know that there’s not much I can say that would make things any better right now. I just want you to see in my eyes how sorry I am for the comments that I made yesterday,” he said.
Some players on the Saints, including wide receiver Michael Thomas, linebacker Demario Davis and left tackle Terron Armstead, accepted Brees’s apology.
In a tweet, Armstead said he chose to speak to Brees personally about the remarks he made, which Armstead described as “extremely insensitive, dismissive, and flat out disappointing.”
He added that “accountability and responsibility is the only way to move forward from this.”
“One of my brothers made a public statement yesterday that I disagreed with. He apologized & I accept it because that’s what we are taught to do as Christians,” Armstead said. “Now back to the movement!”
Trump has made it clear that he loathes NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality against Black people. The protest movement was launched in 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Trump has referred to the athletes as sons of bitches and has called on fans to boycott the NFL.
In 2018, the NFL attempted to ban kneeling during the national anthem by requiring all players on the field to stay standing.
On Friday, however, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the league was wrong to not listen to its players and encouraged them to participate in the anti-racism protests that have been held across the U.S.
Goodell did not mention Kaepernick, who has been unsigned since 2017, in his announcement.