New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees holds his hand to his heart during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in New Orleans on Dec. 23, 2018. Gerald Herbert / AP.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has received harsh criticism from his teammates and fans in the last week for not recognizing the struggles his black teammates face.

When asked about the future of protests in the League, Brees said in an interview last week that he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” Brees continued, “Is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go… I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag … shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.” 

Brees and his wife quickly apologized to his team and the public for his statements. Former teammate Ben Watson opened a discussion with Brees about his comments, stating that he believes Brees “doesn’t have to prove that he loves Black people to anybody … He cared before … But there has to be a conversation with many of those people who were […] hurt” and forgave his statements against kneeling to the flag. Critics have given Brees more support after he openly challenged President Donald Trump on Instagram.

The National Football League commissioner on Friday said that the organization was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” Central to the issue was whether or not players could protest by kneeling during the national anthem before games. Colin Kaepernick highlighted kneeling as a symbol for peaceful protest in 2016 – and lost his job for it.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Eagles pass rusher Malik Jackson doesn’t accept Drew Brees’ apology, ‘excited to play him’ this season – Yahoo Sports – 6/8/2020
“I lost a lot of respect for Drew Brees,” Jackson said (1:03 above). “A great player, but very insensitive about the times and where he stands. … “My great granddaddy and dad fought in the war too, and they were getting spit on at the same time. I understand where you’re coming from. But I said ‘F you’ for your mindset. You’re still not understanding where we’re coming from after three years of trying to talk about this and get notoriety. You’re still talking about kneeling for a flag. A flag that has oppressed people.”

How other Saints leaders spoke up after Drew Brees became center of turmoil – ESPN – 6/5/2020
Payton was applauding team captain and NFL Players Coalition leader Demario Davis, calling Davis a “special man” for the way he went on multiple national TV stations to accept quarterback Drew Brees’ apology and even suggest that it was “leadership at its finest” for Brees to admit his comments on national anthem protests were so misguided. But Davis wasn’t alone. Other high-profile players — even ones like receiver Michael Thomas who had harshly rebuked Brees on social media a day earlier — also publicly accepted Brees’ apology or expressed optimism that the team could grow stronger from their heartfelt discussions.

Ex-NFL player Burgess Owens bashes ‘bullies’ criticizing Drew Brees as ‘cowards and Marxists’ – Fox News – 6/5/2020
Owens, who won Super Bowl XV as a member of the Oakland Raiders and is running for Congress as a Republican in Utah’s 4th District, added that people who know Brees know that he is not a racist, and that people going after him are “cowards and Marxists — period.” … “I’m one of those guys that will never, ever acquiesce and apologize for pride in my country, and I’ll say another thing,” Owens continued. “I will always say ‘All Lives Matter’. I don’t care what the bullies say … those of us that tell the truth will win our country back.”

LeBron James calls out Fox News host for defense of Drew Brees – CNN – 6/5/2020
NBA star LeBron James has called out Fox News host Laura Ingraham for her defense of star quarterback Drew Brees. […] Ingraham and James have history after she told the LA Lakers star and fellow NBA player Kevin Durant pair to “shut up and dribble” after they criticized US President Donald Trump.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

The Gospel Coalition on Twitter, 6/8/2020: Austin Carr (New Orleans Saints): “a player can believe our nation needs significant change in areas of racial justice, while also being grateful for those who protect our nation’s freedoms, including the freedom to protest.”

Shane Hannon on Twitter, 6/9/2020: I had an extended chat with the man who helped @Kaepernick7 come up with his ‘take the knee’ protest – former Green Beret @NateBoyer37. Former @Saints RB Lamar Louis also talks Drew Brees, and growing up black in America. @offtheball

Matthew Gutierrez on  Twitter, 6/9/2020: For @TheAthletic ex-Cuse and NBA center Etan Thomas explains how QB Drew Brees can now use his celebrity and influence to bring about real change.

CBS This Morning on Twitter, 6/9/2020: “The same things I said in that video I said to @DrewBrees… We’re in that moment where we need truth before we can have reconciliation and that was an opportunity for me to share my truth, not only to Drew Brees, but to everybody who’s watching.” — @MalcolmJenkins

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