CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Drew Brees stood on the sideline for the national anthem, his hand firmly over his heart while nearly a dozen Saints teammates sat behind him on the bench in protest of recent remarks made by President Donald Trump.
Brees began his post-game news conference Sunday by saying that he didn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s recent comments about NFL players , calling them “unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States.” He also admitted there is inequality and racism in the United States.
But the 17-year NFL veteran said he doesn’t believe sitting for the anthem to protest those concerns is appropriate.
“I will always feel that if you are an American the national anthem is an opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and show respect for our country and to show respect for what it stands for,” Brees said.
Trump said Friday when NFL owners see players disrespecting the flag they should say “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”
Brees has previously stated that while he agreed with Colin Kaepernick’s reasoning for protesting racial injustices, he didn’t believe in the method of that protest, which including kneeling for the anthem.
On Sunday, Brees said there will always be issues in the country that must be dealt with and people should strive to make those things better.
“But if the protest becomes that we are going to sit down or kneel and not show respect to the United States of America and everything that it symbolizes, and everything that is stands for, and everything our country has been through to get to this point, I don’t agree with that.”
Brees then put his hand over his heart standing behind the podium.
“Looking at the flag with your hand over your heart is a unifying thing that should bring us all together and say, ‘You know what, we know what things are not where they should be, but we will continue to work and strive to make things better and bring equality to all people.’ … I will always believe that we should be standing and showing respect to our flag with our hand over our heart.”
If there was any divide in the locker room on Sunday, it didn’t show. New Orleans dominated the Panthers 34-13 behind three Brees touchdown passes and a strong defensive effort to win its first game of the season.
This is the first season in Brees’ career in which he has no giveaways through the first three games
Brees said he understands why his teammates are protesting and added they are “justified” in their reasons.
But he just doesn’t agree with the method of that protest.
“I will never say it’s OK to not show respect to the flag of the United States of America during the national anthem,” Brees said. “That is the symbol of showing respect to our country. I won’t. I don’t think that that’s OK because of all who have fought so hard and died and sacrificed so much for us to have the things we have, to have the freedoms that we have. The very freedom of the speech that we are talking about was born from that flag.”
As for a method NFL players should use to protest injustices, Brees said he had no answer.
A few minutes before Brees took the podium, Saints coach Sean Payton applauded members of his team for standing up for what they believed in.
“I think we need a little bit more wisdom in that office,” Payton said of the White House. “That’s being very blunt, but that’s how I feel. I want that guy to be one of the smarter guys in the room and it seems like every time he’s opening his mouth it’s something that is dividing our country and not pulling us together.”
Saints running back Adrian Peterson said he felt he had to do something, so he sat for the national anthem.
“Just standing with the protest, and showing the world where we stand with equality, not just for African Americans,” Peterson said of his reason for sitting. “There is a need for change.”
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