NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is apologizing after speaking out on Wednesday about players kneeling during the national anthem.
"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," Brees said on Instagram Thursday morning. "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."
Brees told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday that he would never agree with anybody kneeling during the national anthem.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States,” Brees said.
After receiving backlash about his comments, Brees reiterated his stance later to ESPN saying that he also respects his teammates and their fight for "racial equality and justice."
Brees’ teammate Michael Thomas was one of the many athletes who reacted to the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s comments.
“He don’t know no better,” Thomas wrote on his Twitter. “We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that.”
Other athletes across the sports world shared their thoughts about Brees’ comments, including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, and former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, among others.
Former Saints teammates Kenny Vaccaro responded to Thomas on Twitter by saying, "That one hurt bro."
Thursday morning, Brees took to social media to apologize, saying he felt sick over the way his comments were perceived but takes full responsibility and accountability.
"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."
Brees went on to say he should do less talking and more listening.
"When the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen," he said. "For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness."