Drew Brees began his media availability Saturday by addressing the controversial comments he made in June regarding protests during the national anthem by once again apologizing and pledging to fight for social justice.
“I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day,” he said. “I had a opportunity to talk about and emphasize the social injustices that exist for our black community and our need as a country to support them and advocate for systemic change and my lack of awareness in that moment hurt a lot of people.”
When asked about the potential for anthem protest during a June interveiw, Brees said that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States.”
That comment drew strong reactions from fans as well as Brees’ teammates as many said they ignored and distracted from the purpose of the protests.
Brees said it “broke my heart” that New Orleans, Louisiana or the black community would think that he was not standing with them for social justice.
“I’m the same person now that I’ve always been,” he said. “I’m someone who cares deeply for my community, New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, people everywhere.
“I’m someone who will always address the inequities and disparities that exist. I’m someone who has great empathy for those who are hurting, struggling, are victims of injustice and I’m someone who feels a great sense of responsibility to serve and to lead and to bring true equality to everyone.”
Brees did add that he will “always” stand during the anthem “because of what it means to me," citing that the nation’s flag and anthem remind him of people who served “and all those who have struggled to move this country forward.”
He, however, stressed that he respects anyone who chooses to kneel.
“I acknowledge and respect anyone who chooses to kneel or any other form of peaceful protest to bring attention to the social injustices and the systemic racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country,” Brees said. “I will always support and advocate for the black and brown communities in the fight for social justice always.”
Brees added that he’s spoken to his teammates about his June comments and that together they’ve reconciled and are focusing on the issues of social justice.
Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins had a strong reaction to Brees’ original comments and Brees said the two have discussed them.
“I’m a friend of Malcolm, I’m his teammate and I’m his ally,” Brees said. “And there are many things that we are all having conversations about working on together … all of our goals are aligned.”
Saints tackle Terron Armstead said he appreciated Brees’ commitment to demonstrating those comments were not what he represented and facing everything “head on.”
“The best way to move forward is they face everything head on,” Armstead said. “Invite any questions, comments or concerns. I'm sure it'll be addressed again, once we're all together and you know make sure everyone gets a chance to express anything if it needs to be or anything of sort.”