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Brees Doubles Down: 'I'll Always Stand for the Flag'

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Saints quarterback Drew Brees says he will continue to stand for the American flag but respects and supports any form of peaceful demonstration, including kneeling during the national anthem.

“I’ll always stand for the flag because of what it means to me and to honor all those who have sacrificed, who have served and died for our country, and all those who have struggled to move this country forward,” Brees said Saturday in a conference call with media to discuss the beginning of training camp.

“I acknowledge and respect anyone who chooses to kneel or any other form of peaceful protest to bring attention to social injustice and system racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country,” Brees continued, adding that he “always will support and advocate for black and brown communities in the fight for social justice.”

The 41-year-old Brees, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions and touchdowns, is entering his 20th NFL season and 15th with the New Orleans Saints.

Brees faced backlash when he reiterated his long-held opposition to kneeling during the national anthem, saying he would never approve of anyone disrespecting the flag.

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His comments came as protests and riots were erupting across the country in response to the death of George Floyd.

Brees apologized soon afterward and said that kneeling during the anthem was “never about the flag.”

“To think for a second that New Orleans or the state of Louisiana, or the black community would think I was not standing with them for social justice, that completely broke my heart. It was crushing. Never, ever would I feel that way,” Brees said on Saturday.

“I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day. I had an 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.”

Should athletes be allowed to kneel for the national anthem?

Brees added that he has had many conversation with teammates since then and particularly in recent days and that they have “reconciled and put closure on anything from the past, and we are moving forward to focusing on the issues of social justice that face really our entire country.”

Brees singled out safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had been among his harshest critics on social media before Brees’ public apology, saying, “I am a friend of Malcolm, I am his teammate and I am his ally. There are many things that we’re having a conversation about working on together. All of our goals are aligned.”


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