“NO KNEELING,” President Donald Trump asserted on Friday in response to the latest round of NFL controversy.
Trump called out New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ most recent apology for comments he made on players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality just days after George Floyd died.
“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Trump said in his tweet. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high … We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!”
Brees responded in an Instagram post Friday night directly “To President Trump.”
“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities,” Brees wrote Friday. “We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.
“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities,” Brees’ post continued. “We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shared a video message on Twitter.
“We, the NFL, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black People,” the tweet said. “We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter.”
Both messages from Trump and Goodell came on the heels of Brees’ Wednesday comments in which he said that he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
In the interview with Yahoo Finance, Brees explained that while he understands the racial discrimination players across the league have tried to highlight, he does not support taking a knee during pre-game ceremonies.
After widespread backlash from sports fans and black players, who make up 70% of NFL rosters, Brees issued a written apology followed by a lengthier post and video on Instagram.
“I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,” Brees wrote Thursday in his first apology, posted alongside a photo of a black and white arm joining hands. “In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused … I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.”
The 13-time Pro Bowler continued, “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.”
In the subsequent apology video, Brees said, “I just want you to see in my eyes how sorry I am for the comments I made yesterday.”
“Step-by-step you will see my heart for exactly what it is and the way everyone around me sees it,” the caption read. “I’m sorry it has taken this long to act and to participate in a meaningful way but I am your ally in this fight.”