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Brees’ anthem, flag comments draw backlash from teammates, others

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees was sharply criticized by fellow high-profile athletes, including some of his own teammates, on Wednesday after the Saints quarterback reiterated his opposition to kneeling during the national anthem.

In an interview with Yahoo, Brees was asked to revisit former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest of police brutality against minorities — in which Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before games — in light of the killing of George Floyd.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States,” Brees began, adding that the national anthem reminds him of his grandfathers, who served in the armed forces during World War II. “In many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed, and not just 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.”

Critical responses to Brees’ statements appeared on social media from several major professional athletes, including the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, the San Francisco 49ers’ Richard Sherman and Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins was Brees’ teammate when the Saints won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, but spent the past six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before returning to New Orleans this offseason.

In a video that has since been deleted from social media, an emotional Jenkins said he was “hurt” by Brees’ comments.

“Our communities are under siege and we need help,” Jenkins said. “And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way, ask for it a different way. I can’t listen to it when you ask that way. We’re done asking, Drew. And people who share your sentiments, who express those, and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem.

“And it’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes you should shut the (expletive) up.”

Brees has said he supports those protesting police brutality but that he does not see the national anthem as the proper forum for that. In 2017, Brees participated with teammates who knelt before the national anthem, but then stood in unison when the anthem was played.

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