Hours after President Donald Trump tweeted his support for Drew Brees’ original comments about national anthem protests, the Saints quarterback responded with an open letter to the president.
…We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
In an Instagram post addressed to Trump, Brees reaffirmed the message he conveyed in his apology Thursday, telling the president that the anthem protests are not about the flag, as he had originally said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag,” Brees wrote. “It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.
“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.
“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?
We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”
Speaking to Yahoo Finance on Wednesday, Brees said he still doesn’t agree with players kneeling during the national anthem. After facing significant backlash, Brees apologized, saying it “broke (his) heart to know the pain (he) had 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,” Brees wrote. “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.”
The issue of national anthem protests have come back into the national spotlight amid protests over the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Minnesota man who died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck during an arrest on May 25. On Friday evening, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded to a call from the league’s players and said the league admitted it was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest” in the past.
Shortly after Brees responded to Trump, Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas voiced his support for the quarterback on Twitter.
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