Drew Brees apologizes for flag comments: ‘We all need to listen’

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Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS — Saints quarterback Drew Brees issued an apology Thursday after being sharply criticized by fellow high-profile athletes over comments he made opposing kneeling during the national anthem.

“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,” he said in an Instagram post. “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.”

During a Yahoo interview, Brees commented on former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest of police brutality against minorities, saying he’ll “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States.”

Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before games.

Many athletes have repeatedly said the kneeling was about police brutality and social injustice and not about disrespecting the flag or the military.

Brees caught heat from such high-profile athletes as Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL player Martellus Bennett on their Twitter feeds.

Brees has said he supports protests against police brutality but the national anthem is not the place.

View this post on Instagram

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. 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. This is where I stand: I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community. I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. 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.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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