New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is staying true to his position against his fellow athletes taking a knee during the national anthem.
Brees doubled down during an interview Wednesday with Yahoo! Finance.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” he said. “Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.”
Brees believes standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner” is like saluting the military.
“I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps,” he explained. “Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about.”
The athlete continued:
And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.
Brees’ comments about the controversial protest come as the U.S. is grappling with violent riots and peaceful protests around the country following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, by a former Minneapolis police officer. The demonstration Brees is referring to was started in August 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, at the time, described his protest as “stand[ing] up for people that are oppressed,” referring to instances of racial injustice in the country.
In a follow-up text message to a reporter for ESPN, Brees said he believes all people — “that includes all those who marched for women’s suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality” — should stand for the national anthem ahead of NFL games.
Using vulgar language, President Donald Trump spoke out against Kaepernick in 2017. At the time, Brees said he disagreed with Trump’s rhetoric, but indicated he believed all Americans should stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“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,” he said at the time.
Michael Thomas, a wide receiver for the Saints, expressed his disagreement Wednesday with Brees’ stance.
At the time this story was published, Kaepernick had not addressed Brees’ comments.