New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees sparked critical comments when he appeared on Yahoo! Finance and said that he will never agree with someone "disrespecting the flag" by kneeling. Brees later apologized and said that he had missed the mark and would be part of the solution. He also sent a long message to President Donald Trump on Instagram and said that this is not an issue about disrespecting the American flag.
"To @realdonaldtrump Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been," Brees wrote on Instagram. "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?
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"We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities," Brees continued. "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."
Along with Brees, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also admitted that he "was wrong" in 2016 and 2017. Goodell and the league released a video on Friday condemning racism and saying that Black Lives Matter. He also noted that the NFL "was wrong" for not listening to its players and encouraged all to protest peacefully.
"Without black players, there would be no National Football League," Goodell said in the video. "And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening, I am listening." He also said that he wants to be part of the much-needed change in the United States.
While Brees said that the protests are no longer about the flag and called for Trump to stop about it, the president did not necessarily agree. He went on Twitter to share thoughts about Brees' original interview and said that the quarterback should not have taken back his stance on the American flag. Additionally, Trump said that "we should be standing up straight and tall" during the national anthem. "NO KNEELING," he wrote.