NFL's Drew Brees has apologized after being ripped by his teammates for saying he will never support kneeling during the national anthem.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback expressed his remorse Thursday morning in a lengthy post shared to Instagram.
"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, adding: "It breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused."
Brees Wednesday interview with Yahoo Finance sparked an outcry as he made "insensitive" comments.
His apology continued: "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."
On Wednesday, the NFL star told Yahoo Finance he will not be supporting NFL players who choose to kneel during the national anthem in the upcoming 2020 season.
In the interview, Brees firmly stated: "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country."
The 41-year-old NFL star was responding to a question about how George Floyd's death might lead players to kneel again – like they did in response to the San Francisco 49ers’ black quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Brees concluded his apology by explaining where he stands with the black community.
He said: "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.
"I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today."
He confirmed that he is taking "full responsibility and accountability" for his words.
"I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening," Brees said.
"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."
Brees' apology comes after Lebron James blasted him for saying he will "never agree with disrespecting the flag" if players kneel for George Floyd.
As Brees' controversial comments circulated on Wednesday, LeBron tweeted: "WOW MAN!! 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 Flag of United States and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free."
Take a knee is a protest against the unfair treatment of Black Americans which has been used in many American football games.
It started during the American football pre-season four summers ago in 2016 when Kaepernick sat instead of standing during the national anthem.
"Is everything right with this country? No. We still have a long way to go," Brees said in the interview.
"But I think that standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, that we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution."
The National Anthem reminds Brees of his two grandfathers who both risked their lives to make this country a better place.
George Floyd's Memorial Day death prompted protests and violence to erupt all across the United States – as leaders and activist groups such as Black Lives Matter demanded justice for Floyd.
As the 2020 NFL season nears, the controversy surrounding Floyd and police brutality may spark players to continuing kneeling against racial injustice.
Brees explained what how he feels when the national anthem is played.
He said: "I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp.
"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, and in many cases, it 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 everyone, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point."
Brees has chosen not to take part in the take a knee movement as he refuses to disrespect the flag.
However, he did take part in Blackout Tuesday and posted a black screen to Instagram like many others, with the caption #blackouttuesday.
Commenters slammed his post as Brees doing "the bare minimum."
On June 2, 2020 over 60 cops knelt before George Floyd protesters as a mark of "dignity and respect" in North Carolina.
Stunned witnesses say the moment in Fayetteville brought protesters and officers to tears.
Floyd died on May 25 after getting arrested for apparently trying to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
While in police custody, former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes — as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn't breathe.
He soon died, and his death was determined on Monday to be a homicide following a second, independent autopsy.
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