NFL star Drew Brees has been criticised by fellow athletes, including the NBA's LeBron James, after the quarterback claimed athlete protests during the national anthem are disrespectful to the military.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, the longtime New Orleans Saints quarterback has faced significant backlash after a Yahoo Sports interview showed his response to a question about the possibility of NFL players kneeling — as former San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick and others did in 2016 — during the national anthem this upcoming season.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," he said.
"Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp. 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. And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed."
Brees said standing for the anthem with your hand over your heart shows "unity" and "shows that we are all in this together".
Brees' fellow New Orleans teammates and other athletes, like NBA megastar LeBron James, and fans have denounced Brees' anthem comments.
"WOW MAN!!" James wrote on Twitter. "Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn't! You literally still don't understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of (the flag) and our soldiers who keep our land free.
"My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him a question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap's peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong! God bless you."
Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers also reacted to Brees' comments.
"A few years ago we were criticised for locking arms in solidarity before the game," Rodgers wrote on Instagram, referencing the Packers' player protests. "It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let's educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."
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Jason and Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots called Brees' interview a "disgrace".
"This is a disgrace! To speak about your grandfathers as if there weren't black men fighting next to them," the McCourty brothers' joint Twitter account wrote. "Those men later returned to a country that hated them. Don't avoid the issue and try to make it about a flag or the military. Fight like your grandfathers for what's right!"
New York Jets safety Jamal Adams was also clearly disappointed in Brees.
"Dammit Drew…" Adams wrote.
Brees' Saints teammate Emmanuel Sanders tweeted: "Smh (shaking my head) ... ignorant."
New Orleans receiver also took aim on Twitter, writing: "We don't care if you don't agree and whoever else how about that."