President Donald Trump faulted New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for apologizing over comments he made in opposition to National Football League players kneeling during the National Anthem.
“He’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high…”
Brees had stood by his opposition to kneeling in an interview on Wednesday, saying he couldn’t agree with anybody disrespecting the flag. Many athletes have said they took to their knees during the anthem to draw attention to police brutality and racial injustice, an issue that’s taken on renewed significance since last week’s killing of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody in Minneapolis.
But the backlash to anthem-kneeling protests was cited as fueling demonstrations in New Orleans on Wednesday. Protesters there chanted opposition to Brees’s comments.
Amid the widespread criticism, he apologized.
“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,” Brees said on Instagram. “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”
Beginning in the first year of his presidency, Trump has repeatedly lashed out at NFL players who knelt or raised fists during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” In 2018, he called for players who took part to be suspended without pay.
In the fall of 2017, Vice President Mike Pence walked out on a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the 49ers. Trump, on Twitter, later said he’d asked Pence before the game to depart if any players kneeled. They did, and Pence left. Trump’s joint fundraising committee later used the episode to raise money for the president’s campaign.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend in protest of what he said was systemic mistreatment of blacks by law enforcement. After he became a free agent, Kaepernick filed suit against the league, accusing it of colluding to prevent him from securing a contract.
A confidential settlement in the case was reached early last year.
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