One of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time, New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees has found himself embroiled in controversy. Brees recently told Yahoo Finance why he doesn’t agree with taking a knee during the national anthem. He feels that it’s disrespectful to the military and unpatriotic.
As a result, he’s suffered a massive backlash from other athletes across the world of sports. Protestors in New Orleans have also responded furiously. They chanted “F**k Drew Brees” with several posting videos and pictures as they burnt his jersey. Since his earlier comments, he has posted a lengthy public apology.
For the sake of balance, it’s worth mentioning that Brees has donated over $5 million to Hurricane Katrina victims as well as actually taking a knee in solidarity with his teammates at games before. Given the current situation of unrest in America, his comments are still divisive. Let’s take a look at how 25 prominent athletes have reacted to the situation, both in anger and in support.
25. Devin & Jason McCourty
The first twins to appear in and win a Super Bowl together, Devin and Jason McCourty are standouts for a number of reasons. They also share the same Twitter account where they aren’t afraid of making their personal views known. There, the McCourties came down hard on Brees.
They tweeted: “This is a disgrace! To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren’t black men fighting next to them. Those men later returned to a country that hated them. Don’t avoid the issue and try to make it about a flag or the military. Fight like your grandfathers for what’s right!”
Verrett joined the ranks of NFL players condemning Brees for his words. The San Francisco 49ers corner was outraged and disdainful of his New Orleans rival because of what he said. However, unlike other sports stars on this list, he had a different approach in his response.
In short, Verrett recommended that Brees should brush up on his black-American history. Verrett recommended him a list of historical movies to watch and educate himself. He tweeted: “Selma Lord Selma, Ruby Bridges, Cornbread Earl n Me………if you ain’t seen these maybe you need too.”
Another 49ers star chose to target what he perceived to be Brees’ ignorance. He brought up Nate Boyer, a veteran green beret and NFL star, who actually advised Colin Kaepernick to take a knee. Of course, this is still contrary to what Brees believes, but it’s a clear contrasting view.
After he saw what Brees wrote, Armstead took to Twitter. He wrote: @drewbrees you must not know that @NateBoyer37 a veteran just like your grandfather advised @Kaepernick7 to kneel as a sign of respect and peaceful protest.”
A former Seattle Seahawk and army veteran, Boyer is one of the most unique individuals in the NFL. He also makes it extremely awkward for players who claim that taking a knee is unpatriotic because it insults the flag. As a veteran and a former player who spent time in locker rooms with several black players, he supports the movement.
That’s why Boyer responded to Armstead and offered his reflection on the situation. He tweeted: “Appreciate that brother… not enough people know the whole story, that taking a knee was a product of a conversation between two very different people that both want our country to be better.”
It’s bad enough when rival players speak out against you, but when it’s a former teammate and fellow Saints legend, then it’s definitely got to hurt. Colston and Brees had a close relationship on the field, however, he didn’t allow sentiment to get in the way of what he had to say.
The former wide receiver believes that refusing to look at the bigger picture only increases the problem. He tweeted: “If you can’t open your mind and be humble enough to hear someone else’s pain and experience then you’re a bigger part of the problem than you want to admit.”
Former Seahawk Baldwin had a magnificent career. The two-time Pro Bowler was a Super Bowl champion with Seattle in 2013. The wide receiver is also the father of a young girl born in 2019. The outspoken Baldwin wants to bring her into a world that treats everybody equally and offers the same opportunities.
Baldwin directly targeted Brees in his statement on Twitter. He wrote: “@drewbrees the reason my children have to live in a world that won’t empathize with their pain is because people like you are raising your children to perpetuate the cycle. Drew you are the problem.”
As a 22-year-old player, Brown is at the forefront of a new generation of talent. It’s a generation that has had enough of listening to empty promises and wants to carve out a better future for themselves. A wide receiver for the Tenessee Titans, Brown thinks Brees’ perspective is distorted.
Brown also believes that the arguments against taking a knee are inherently flawed. He tweeted: “If you don’t speak up about racism, then you’re apart of the problem. This man said the flag … trash.” To sum up, this argument is going to rumble on and on.
There’s no doubt Brees is receiving a lot of vitriol right now. However, not everybody believes it is constructive. Saints linebacker Davis believes his teammate’s words are only a distraction. While he doesn’t support them, he also doesn’t think that focusing on an individual’s words will bring great change.
He tweeted: “Let us stay focused on the issues that unite us. We are standing united to bring an end to systematic racism and address police brutality, especially against blacks people. If the conversation isn’t about that, it’s a distraction and isn’t helpful at this current time.”
Brees is 41 and is entering his 21st season in the NFL. Incredibly, some of this year’s drafted players were born after Brees started playing. That’s an incredible statistic because it means that many of them grew up watching him. Brees was an inspiration for a lot of these young men.
But there’s no doubting that his words stung some of them. Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Chaisson was one player who revealed his pain. In a short tweet, he wrote: “Drew hurt me with that one.” Will this impact Brees’ season? This is a divided league.
Hart knows all about adversity. After all, his high school almost kicked him out over poor grades. But he was able to bounce back and develop into a stronger human being. As a result of his second chance, he is trying to make a difference. Like many of his fellow NBA stars, the Pelicans shooting guard wants change.
As a fellow athlete based in New Orleans, he took Brees’ words personally. He tweeted: “Never was about disrespecting the armed forces. It’s about police brutality and racial injustices in our country. This country can’t be unified if African Americans are unjustly killed in the street because of the color of their skin.”
Baltimore Ravens running back Ingram added his voice to the many tearing Brees apart right now. However, he also put Aaron Rodgers in stark contrast to the New Orleans star after the former put up a message in support of black lives. He quoted the Packers star and then added his own commentary.
Ingram tweeted: “It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now.” THANK YOU for speaking truth for the oppressed and unheard. THANK YOU for understanding the WHY. @AaronRodgers12″ Brees definitely looks a bit insensitive compared to his rival right now.
One of the most complex parts of this situation is that Brees did take a knee before. You could argue that he did this because he wanted to support his teammates beyond his own beliefs. However, Washington Wizards star Brown thinks he’s a hypocrite.
Brown took aim at the quarterback’s actions. He targeted the decision to take a knee by tweeting: “Wait a second… Didn’t Drew Brees take a knee with his African American teammates during the time that Colin Kaepernick was fighting for racial injustice…? So all of that was fake… smh”
Six-time Pro Bowler Owens is a 49ers legend. The former wide receiver is also a Hall of Famer. He was one of the most talented players of his generation. The 46-year-old Owens reacted to Brees and his statement by reposting Ed Reed’s video.
He also reposted an image of a black American marine taking a knee. Owens did this because he wanted to show that active military personnel was happy to make the gesture in order to pursue equality and civil rights in the nation they’re defending.
Baltimore Ravens Hall of Famer Reed had one of the most emotional responses to Brees’ interview. He shredded the quarterback in a devastating video that eviscerated everything Brees said. Furthermore, several of his fellows in the NFL world shared it.
“Drew Brees, you’re a straight sucker, man. You’re a sucker for that, bro. Why you think all these young people are out here protesting? Why you think they’re out here protesting? The looting, I can see you speaking on the looting and saying that’s bad, you don’t support that. But why you think all these young people are out here protesting?”
Not everybody is railing Brees. In fact, one of his teammates has spoken out passionately in support of the veteran. Davenport took to Twitter to defend his teammate because he believes his actions speak stronger than his words. Furthermore, we don’t always have to agree.
Davenport tweeted: “Drew wasn’t talking about the current protest, the riots or really anything besides HIS feelings on kneeling during the National Anthem. He even explained what they were, the basis, and that he actually stands with us. Do we have to entirely agree with him, no.”
New York Jets safety Adams summed up in two words what a lot of people thought about Brees and his situation. He tweeted, “Dammit Drew.” The Texan two-time All-Pro selection has been very active throughout the current period of unrest. He wants to use his platform as a driving force for change.
The former Cowboys star tweeted in support of George Floyd. He wrote: “We can’t let these conversations die and cant’ forget those we’ve lost. Stop killing us. This isn’t just a political issue, this is about the morality of our nation. We all have a part to play!”
Former Detroit Lions nose tackle Harrison wrote a series of tweets in response to Brees. First of all, he called him dumb for his choice of words. Then he targeted the Saints star for his military claims. After all, plenty of black Americans are members of the military too.
But his first tweet was the most cutting. Dumbfounded, he tweeted: “How can you be in the locker rooms, speaking to the players, know the reasoning, and yet still be dumb enough to believe it’s about the flag. Like HOW???? He should know better than that. He just doesn’t care. Damn man not Drew…”
‘Honey Badger’ is a safety for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Super Bowl winner was phenomenal in 2019 but he’s just as strong off the field. He’s not afraid to let people know what he thinks and took to Twitter to remonstrate with Brees after the latter’s comments.
Brees’ words cut to his heart because he is a New Orleans native. Because of this, he wants the quarterback to represent the ‘Big Easy’ in a responsible way. He tweeted. “@drewbrees SMH. You represent New Orleans Louisiana. Don’t ever forget that! #Bottomofthemap”
As a fellow veteran quarterback and legend of the game, Rodgers stood in stark contrast to Brees. Without naming his counterpart, he took aim at what Brees said. In sum, he explained that players should do what they have to do as they seek equality in a peaceful manner.
Rodgers tweeted: “A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.”
UFC fighter Cormier is also a Louisiana native. As such, the Saints and the state are close to his heart. However, the timing and nature of Brees’ comments at such a sensitive moment left him stunned. To sum up, Cormier doesn’t understand what Brees was trying to achieve at such a polarizing time.
Cormier is very active on social media because of his fight career and works with ESPN. A supporter of the Saints and Brees, Cormier was very disappointed by the quarterback’s words. DC tweeted: “For a man that doesn’t make many mistakes, this is a big one. So disappointing.”
As we’ve already said, not everyone is criticizing Brees. Former Saints wide receiver Horn defended his old teammate because he believes in Brees’ personal character. In short, he thinks that Brees’s actions off the field truly reflect his character. To those calling Brees a racist, he had a strongly-worded message.
Horn said: “People should not be throwing Drew Brees under the bus, and they definitely need to pump the brakes on labeling him a racist. I know Drew Brees. Drew Brees has done a lot to help black families and the black community in New Orleans.”
San Francisco 49ers corner Sherman became incredibly impassioned by Brees’ statements. The Super Bowl winner reflected on how people treat him in public as well as commenting on how people like Brees are a lost cause. Whether or not you agree, you have to respect his self-belief.
Sherman tweeted: “He’s beyond lost. Guarantee you there were black men fighting alongside 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.”
Ever the social activist, NBA star James is one of the most high-profile black athletes to target Brees for his comments. He explained that his father-in-law supports taking a knee despite being a veteran. In short, he believes that the Saints legend is missing the point and sending a dangerous message.
James tweeted: “WOW MAN!! Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolutely nothing to do with the disrespect of [flag emoji] and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those.”
Outraged by Brees’ words, Super Bowl winner Ward made his feelings known. The Kansas City Chiefs’ corner only had three years in high school during a very tough childhood. As a result, he knows all about what it means to suffer and endure hardship. Because of this, he felt like he had to speak out.
His online message was defiant. Ward tweeted: “We just want that “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” we were promised!! So if we continue to get killed for being black… we gone keep kneeling & keep fighting!!” Don’t expect a warm welcome for Brees in Kansas City.
As a wide receiver for the Saints, Thomas has one of the closest on-field relationships with Brees. However, off the field, things have turned very cold because the LA native is disgusted by his teammate’s reaction. To sum up, he appears dismissive of Brees’ knowledge.
In a tweet, he wrote: “We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that. He don’t know no better.” It’s clear that Thomas believes that ignorance should automatically cause your opinion to be discounted. Thomas later accepted Brees’ apology that came a day later after his infamous interview. We still don’t know if their locker room is going to be a very pleasant place.
New Orleans Saints safety Jenkins had one of the most emotional responses to Brees’ words. He said that his teammate doesn’t understand his privilege. Also, he believes that Brees should not expect everybody to support his perspective because black Americans have suffered for centuries, including those who have served.
“Our communities are under siege and we need help,” Jenkins said. “And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way, ask for it a different way. I can’t listen to it when you ask that way. We’re done asking, Drew. And people who share your sentiments, who express those, and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem.”
Finally, let’s take a look at Brees’ apology. After receiving a lot of flak on social media, he decided to take to Twitter and Instagram and express his regrets. His teammate Demario Davis praised him for showing leadership, however, others say he hasn’t actually dealt with his comments on taking a knee. Check out the full post and his original statement.
He ended the post with the words: “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.”