Race is at the forefront of discussions around America, and the NFL is tied to it.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country,” Brees said. He referenced the fact that both of his grandfathers served in the Armed Forces, so he didn’t want to disrespect what they fought for.
With protests focused on racial inequality, and police violence happening around the country, some felt Brees’ remarks missed the point of why former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem back in 2016.
One of the people who clapped back at Brees is current Niners’ corner Richard Sherman.
He’s beyond lost. 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 https://t.co/ON81UsOWPw pic.twitter.com/HH3EVTIH8p— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) June 3, 2020
Sherman wasn’t the only NFL player who didn’t appreciate Brees’ comments. His own teammates, such as receiver Michael Thomas, safety Malcolm Jenkins and running back Alvin Kamara, all publicly called out their QB.
Brees issued an apology days later on social media, saying he lacked awareness with his previous comments.
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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. 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. 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. This is where I stand: 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. 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 will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. 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.
Sherman spoke with the SF Chronicle’s Eric Branch, and said he was happy to see that Brees took some time to reflect on his words:
“I appreciated him doing that. People make mistakes in judgment all the time. None of us are perfect. I think it was just such a disappointment because the locker room and the culture is different than any other place. So you kind of get lulled into the belief that everyone has torn down those stereotypes and those walls. And everyone is treating each other equally.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also said the league was wrong for not listening to its players, and for not doing enough to address racial inequality. He said the league will “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
He went on to add that “without black players, there would be no National Football League and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.”
It will be interesting to see how the league reacts if a large number of players choose to kneel, or protest during the national anthem. President Trump already took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Goodell and Brees, so this will very much be a political issue during the 2020 NFL season.
Will you stop watching NFL games if players are kneeling during the national anthem next season?
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