NFL quarterback Drew Brees has apologised for comments made about players kneeling in protest at racial inequality in the United States.
New Orleans Saints star Brees suggested that he would never support actions that “disrespected the flag”, a comment that drew widespread criticism from his teammates, the wider NFL as well as from high profile stars from other sports.
Colin Kaepernick famously took to one knee during the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ to protest racial injustices and police brutality back in 2016 with others following suit over the last week in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Brees has now moved to clarify what he meant and has offered an unreserved apology for his statement.
“I would like to apologise to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,” he said in a social media post. “In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centred 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. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy.
“This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.”
Brees’ comments saw an outpouring of criticism with Saints teammates Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders going public to disagree with the 41-year-old.
He now says he takes “full responsibility” for what he said and has pledged to “do less talking and more listening” from now on.
“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,” he added. ”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.
“I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognise 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.”