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Drew Brees apologizes for criticism of NFL protests amid backlash

Drew Brees has apologized and condemned oppression of African Americans amid a torrent of criticism from LeBron James, NFL stars, and even his New Orleans Saints teammates over his recent objections to players protesting racism by kneeling during the national anthem.

'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,' Brees wrote on Instagram. 'In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.'

In an interview posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Brees told Yahoo Finance that he 'will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.' Brees had been asked about his social responsibilities moving forward, and responded by citing his World War II veteran grandfathers while criticizing the peaceful demonstrations.

Brees's public comments were his first following the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, sparking nationwide protests over racist police brutality - the same issue varying numbers NFL players have been protesting during the national anthem since 2016.

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Drew Brees has apologized and condemned oppression of African Americans amid a torrent of criticism from LeBron James , NFL stars, and even his New Orleans Saints teammates over his recent objections to players protesting racism by kneeling during the national anthem

Brees did not run away from criticism in his apology on Instagram: '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'

At least one person has burned a Drew Brees jersey in response to his statement to Yahoo 

'I considered you a friend,' Jenkins said in a video posted to Instagram. 'I looked up to you. You're somebody I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes, you should shut the f*** up.'

Brees did not run away from that criticism on Thursday.

'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's apology continued.

'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.'

Then-49ers teammates Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid pictured protest racist police brutality during the 2016 season

Brees went on to describe his position on social justice and protesting, while suggesting that he can be a leader during this time.

'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,' he continued. '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 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.'

Former NFL wide receiver Doug Baldwin Jr. tweeted his criticism of Brees on Wednesday 

Brees's New Orleans Saints teammate Cameron Joran also weighed in on the subject 

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman called Brees 'beyond lost' 

Drew Brees (left) told Yahoo Finance that he still thinks protesting during the anthem is disrespectful. LeBron James (right) says Brees is misinterpreting the protests

One of Brees's teammates, Marcus Davenport, did come to his defense, albeit cautiously 

Brees's opinion on the subject isn't new, nor is the NFL's controversy over protests, which began with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 season. Although he has been out of the NFL since March of 2017, leading to accusations of collusion and blackballing against NFL team owners, other players have continued to protest racist police brutality by kneeling, sitting, or raising a fist during the national anthem.

On Wednesday, Brees said cited his World War II veteran grandfathers while explaining why he thought the protests were disrespectful to the military.

James gave his response on Twitter, claiming that Brees has been misinterpreting the protests.

'Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn't!' James wrote. 'You literally still don't understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of (the flag) and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those.'

'He don't know no better,' Thomas wrote on Wednesday afternoon.

Thomas followed 15 minutes later with 'We don't care if you don't agree and whoever else how about that.'

Brees followed Thomas' tweets with a statement to ESPN.com.

'I love and respect my teammates and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice,' Brees said. 'I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.'

Brees and Thomas have been on the same page on the field, with the latter being named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan offered on Twitter, 'I've been told countless times, believe only half of what you see and none of what you hear. Idk bout it. I do know Actions speak louder than words. I've been told that a plenty... show me'

'He's beyond lost,' Sherman wrote. 'Guarantee you there were black men fighting along side your grandfather but this doesn't seem to be about that. That uncomfortable conversation you are trying to avoid by injecting military into a conversation about brutality and equality is part of the problem.'

Former NFL wide receiver Doug Baldwin Jr. tweeted, '@drewbrees the reason my children have to live in a world that won't empathize with their pain is because people like you are raising your children to perpetuate the cycle. Drew, you are the problem.'

Retired NBA star Stephen Jackson - a friend of Floyd's for over 20 years from the Houston area - also weighed in: 'If you're not with us, if you're not standing on the side of right, then obviously...you're part of the problem. There's no more straddling the fence.'

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