Fighting against racism does not mean failing to treat the American flag with respect, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Sunday.
After the New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers, what happened on during the game took second place to the growing furor over protests that occurred during the playing of the national anthem.
On Friday, President Donald Trump criticized players who protest racism by failing to stand for the anthem, causing players, coaches and owners around the NFL to take a stand.
Brees said Trump came down too hard.
“I disagree with what the president said and how he said it,” Brees said. “I think it’s very unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States to talk like that, to the great people like that, and, obviously, he’s disappointing a lot of people.”
Brees said that there are two problems on the table — one is that not all Americans have an equal chance at success, and the other how NFL players are responding to that issue.
“Let me say this first – do I think that there’s inequality in this country? Yes, I do. Do I think that there’s racism? Yes, I do. I think there’s inequality for women in the workplace; I think there’s inequality for people of color, for minorities, for immigrants,” he said.
How NFL players respond to that issue determines whether he is with them or not.
“If the protest becomes we’re going to sit down or kneel or not show respect to the flag of the United States of America and everything it symbolizes and everything it stands for, everything our country has stood for to get to this point, I do not agree with that,” he said.
Brees said the anthem should bring Americans together, not divide them.
“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,’” Brees said.
Brees also said the anthem is a time for respect.
“I will always believe that we should be standing and showing respect to our flag with our hand over our heart. I will never say it’s OK to not show respect to the flag of the United States of America during the national anthem,” he said.
Brees, whose grandfather served in World War II, said the flag is a symbol all Americans should hold dear.
“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,” he said.
Although 10 New Orleans Saints did not stand for the anthem, contradicting what Brees believes is right, he did not expect the issue would divide him team.
“I’m not sure exactly what happened pregame because I was locked in, but I’ll talk to all my guys and we’ll be fine,” he said. (For more from the author of “Saints Quarterback: Respecting the Flag More Important Than Making a Point” please click HERE)