LeBron James was among the pro athletes on Wednesday who were shocked by comments made by Drew Brees earlier in the day.
The Saints star QB said in an interview with Yahoo News that, even after the killing of George Floyd and worldwide protests which resulted, he was still against any football player kneeling during the national anthem. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said.
Former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was the first pro athlete to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial violence, specifically police brutality. He was subsequently blackballed from the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar (and actor currently working on Space Jam 2 for Warner Bros.) shared his dismay about Brees’ comments in a couple of tweets.
“WOW MAN!!” James began. “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 [American 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! God bless you.”
Floyd, who is black, died Memorial Day after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck during an arrest in Minneapolis. The officer has since been fired and charged with his murder. Three other officers on scene were also fired and charged with abetting on Wednesday.
Kaepernick, who has since become one of the most prominent voices for racial equality, has been celebrated once again for his efforts, past and present, to raise awareness and seek change.
On Thursday morning, Brees issued a lengthy apology on social media.
“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,” he began. “In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. 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.”
He 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.”
June 4, 7:21 a.m. Updated with Brees’ apology.