New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees stayed steadfast in his stance against NFL players kneeling during the national anthem when the season starts in recent remarks on the subject amid widespread protests across the U.S. in the wake of the death of George Floyd, and it was not well-received by NBA star Lebron James.
"WOW MAN!!" James wrote on Twitter. "Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitement. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you."
The comes after Brees told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday he would never agree with the gesture (kneeling).
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States,” the 41-year-old quarterback told the outlet.
Brees likened standing for the national anthem to saluting the military.
“I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about," he said.
“And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”
Brees reiterated his stance later to ESPN, saying that he also respects his teammates and their fight for "racial equality and justice."
"I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms," Brees told ESPN via text. "That includes all those who marched for women's suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us ... EVERYONE ... represent that flag. Same way I respect all the citizens of our country ... no matter their race, color, religion.
"And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life," Brees added. "Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don't have it? That's what I meant by actions speak louder than words. ... My ACTIONS speak for themselves."
Brees’ teammate Michael Thomas, also appeared to react to the quarterback’s comments on Twitter.
Malcom Jenksins, the Saints' safety, shared on his Instagram that Brees had actually reached out to him to disuss his point of view,
Jenkins held back tears as he responded to Brees' comments, in part:
"Drew Brees, if you don’t understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem. To think that because your grandfathers served in this country and you have a great respect for the flag, that everybody else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do, is ridiculous. Because when our grandfathers fought for this country and served and they came back, they didn’t come back to a hero welcome," Jenksins continued to hold back tears. "They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. They came back to racism, to complete violence and then here we are in 2020 with the whole country on fire, everybody witnessing a black man dying, being murdered at the hands of the police just, in cold blood for everybody to see."
"I’m disappointed, I’m hurt," Jenkins continued. "Because while the world tells you that you’re not worthy, that your life doesn’t matter, the last place you want to hear it from, are the guys that you go to war with and that you consider to be allies and to be your friends. Even though we're teammates, I can’t let this slide."
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, shared a photo on his Instagram account with the caption:
"A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."
Brees had previously made comments about standing during the national anthem during the 2017 season. At the time, he said he didn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s comments about Colin Kaepernick or players who kneel during the anthem, but still said players should stand.
“I will always feel that if you are an American the national anthem is an opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and show respect for our country, and to show respect for what it stands for,” Brees said at the time.
He would also add: “But if the protest becomes that we are going to sit down or kneel and not show respect to the United States of America and everything that it symbolizes, and everything that it stands for, and everything our country has been through to get to this point, I don't agree with that.”
While other players on his team protested in 2017, Brees said their reasons were “justified.”
“I will never say it's OK to not show respect to the flag of the United States of America during the national anthem,” he said. “That is the symbol of showing respect to our country. I won't. I don't think that that's OK because of all who have fought so hard and died and sacrificed so much for us to have the things we have, to have the freedoms that we have. The very freedom of the speech that we are talking about was born from that flag.”
Brees didn’t say what method of protest would have been acceptable.
Colin Kaepernick has been the face of the athlete-activist movement since he kneeled during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness for social justice issues across the U.S.
Kaepernick reacted to the death of George Floyd, and the violent protests that came in the days after, on social media Thursday.
It was the first comments Kaepernick made since Floyd died in an officer-involved incident in Minneapolis on Monday. Video released from the arrest showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he screamed he couldn’t breathe.
“When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction,” the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback tweeted.
“The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance. We have the right to fight back! Rest in Power George Floyd.”
Days-long protests were sparked throughout the country after Floyd, a black man, was killed after being detained by Minneapolis police on suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill on May 25.
Cellphone video showed that a white officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd, who was handcuffed, pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Chauvin from third-degree murder to second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd and also charging the three other officers involved, according to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. All of the officers had been fired after video of Floyd’s death surfaced.
FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.