President Donald Trump is wading back into the debate over NFL player protests by condemning Drew Brees's recent apology for calling the peaceful demonstrations 'disrespectful' to the military.
'I am a big fan of Drew Brees,' Trump tweeted Friday. 'I think he's truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high.
'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!'
Brittney Brees, Drew Brees, Melania Trump and Donald Trump pictured at the 2020 college football national title game at the Superdome in New Orleans
President Donald Trump is wading back into the debate over NFL player protests by condemning Drew Brees's recent apology for calling the peaceful demonstrations 'disrespectful' to the military
The controversy has reignited in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose death has sparked protests around the country. In a video of the violent arrest that went viral, Floyd is seen screaming that he can't breath before ultimately passing out. He was later declared dead at a local hospital.
Brees, who had previously disagreed with the protests, repeated his opposition to kneeling during the national anthem in an interview with Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.
The biting backlash that followed prompted the Saints' star quarterback to issue a several apologies on Thursday, first writing that he 'missed the mark' and then promising to 'do better' in his self-made video.
In the apology video, Brees also referenced the recent killing of Ahmad Arbery, the black man who was shot to death by a former cop and his son while he was jogging in Georgia.
'I wish I would have laid out what was on my heart in regards to the George Floyd murder, Ahmaud Arbery, the years and years of social injustice, police brutality and the need for so much reform and change in regards to legislation and so many other things to bring equality to our black communities,' Brees said.
'I am sorry and I will do better and I will be part of the solution and I am your ally.'
When Brees expressed his position on the anthem three years ago, he was one of many voices in a crowded conversation about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players raising awareness about racist police brutality by refusing to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner.
But when he repeated it Wednesday, pointing to his World War II veteran grandfathers to explain his objection, the Saints quarterback learned in humbling fashion how times have changed.
The criticism of the peaceful protests sparked an immediate backlash, led by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
James not only thought Brees misinterpreted the protests, but strongly criticized his references to military veterans in his family. To James, protesting during the anthem is not disrespectful to the military, flag, or country.
'WOW MAN!!' James tweeted. 'Is it still surprising at this point. (sic) 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 [the flag] 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 commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong!'
Brees's comments were also blasted by several members of the New Orleans Saints — most notably record-setting wide receiver Michael Thomas, Brees's favorite target, and veteran safety Malcolm Thomas, who told Brees to 'shut the f*** up' in his own social media video.
Some Saints fans were seen burning his replica jersey, while other demonstrators in New Orleans could be heard chanting 'f*** Drew Brees.'
Thomas, linebacker Demario Davis, and some other Saints players have since accepted Brees's apology.
'One of my brothers made a public statement yesterday that I disagreed with,' Thomas wrote on Twitter. 'He apologized & I accept it because that's what we are taught to do as Christians. Now back to the movement! #GeorgeFloyd.'
Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham did defend Brees, and has since been ridiculed for her apparent hypocrisy after telling James and Kevin Durant to 'shut up and dribble' in 2018 when they voiced political dissent against Trump.
Many, including Trump, previously slammed NFL players' peaceful demonstrations as being disrespectful to the military.
Vice president Mike Pence walked out of a 49ers-Indianapolis Colts game in October of 2017 after Kaepernick's former teammates kneeled in protest.
Last week, in response to looting and rioting amid the demonstrations, Trump claimed to be 'an ally of all peaceful protesters' while Pence has echoed similar statements on social media.
Kaepernick recently offered to pay the legal fees for any of the 'freedom fighters' arrested while protesting the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
'In fighting for liberation there's always retaliation,' Kaepernick wrote on Twitter. 'We must protect our Freedom Fighters. We started a legal defense initiative to give legal representation to Freedom Fighters in Minneapolis paid for by @yourrightscamp.'
Derek Chauvin, who is seen in the arrest video kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, has been charged with second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter.
The other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Second-degree murder as well as aiding and abetting second-degree murder are both punishable by up to 40 years in prison.