Drew Brees Apologizes for Anti-Protest Comments with Stock Photo of an Interracial Handshake

Luke Darby

Drew Brees, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, has maintained a pretty scandal- and gaffe-free career in the NFL. But this week, as demonstrations against police brutality continue across the country, he invited sharp backlash after criticizing one of the least disruptive forms of protest in recent memory: professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

Speaking to Yahoo Sports this week, Brees was asked about his thoughts on the kneeling protests, which were meant to highlight the unequal treatment of black people by police. Brees said, "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." He added that whenever he looks at the American flag and hears the anthem, he thinks of his veteran grandfathers. He went on:

"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, and in many cases it 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 everyone 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's 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."

Those comments drew a lot of criticism online, including from a very vocal LeBron James, as well as a few of Brees's own teammates. Michael Thomas wrote, "We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that." He added about Brees, "He don’t know no better." Emmanuel Sanders tweeted simply, "Smh.. Ignorant."

Brees had one defender in Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host who responded to LeBron James's political comments with "shut up and dribble." Ingraham believes that Brees "is allowed to have an opinion," although she apparently doesn't allow for his critics to have one in response.

In answer to the backlash, Brees posted an apology to social media, writing, "am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening...and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen."

According to ESPN writer Joon Lee, to hammer his point home, Brees made the apology with a stock photo that appears under the search "handshake against racism."

A conversation with author and University of Pennsylvania professor Daniel Q. Gillion about the history of protests in America and how they've inspired actual policy change.

Originally Appeared on GQ

More From