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Drew Brees apologises after backlash to criticism of NFL kneeling protests

Drew Brees apologises after backlash to criticism of NFL kneeling protests
© Reuters
Drew Brees suggested kneeling during the national anthem would be "disrespecting the flag" of the United States.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has apologised for suggesting that kneeling protests to highlight racial injustice would be “disrespecting the flag” of the United States.

Amid the protests in the US sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody, Brees said in an interview with Yahoo that he would “never agree” with somebody taking a knee during the national anthem – something former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick did in 2016 to protest against police brutality.

Brees faced an angry backlash for his comments, including from some of his own team-mates, with basketball star LeBron James asking: “You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?”

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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

In a post on his official Instagram account, Brees admitted his comments had been “insensitive” and had “completely missed the mark”, and begged forgiveness from those he had offended.

Brees wrote: “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.”

The 41-year-old Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV.

Sixteen-year-old tennis star Coco Gauff delivered a powerful speech at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in her home city of Delray Beach.

Coco Gauff
Sixteen-year-old Coco Gauff has issued a strong statement on racial injustice (Mike Egerton/PA)

Gauff, who beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon last year at the age of 15, urged supporters to do their bit to combat systemic racial injustice in the United States.

Gauff said: “If you are choosing silence, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.

“I have spent all week having tough conversations and trying to educate my non-black friends about how they can help the movement.

“I saw a Dr [Martin Luther] King quote that said the silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.”

Aston Villa and England defender Tyrone Mings also joined a protest march in Birmingham on Thursday.

The centre-back posted on Twitter: “Nothing but energy & passion today. I make no apologies for standing up for what I believe in.”

Around 4,000 people took part in the march according to West Midlands Police.

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