New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has drawn criticism following comments he made in response to a question about NFL players protesting during the national anthem.
Here’s a full transcription of the exchange, starting with the question from Yahoo Finance’s Daniel Roberts:
“Everyone is looking back now at [Colin] Kaepernick’s protests from a few years ago, and obviously they were always about police brutality,” Roberts started. “And now it’s coming back to the fore and a lot of people expect that we will see players kneeling again if and when the season starts. I’m curious how you think the NFL will and should respond to that. … What is your responsibility as a leader in times like this for the rest of your teammates and players in the league?”
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees 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: I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps, 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, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed, not just by those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s. And all that has 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 we are all part of the solution.”
The exchange came as protesters in all 50 states have taken to public spaces to voice a response to the death of George Floyd, a man who was killed in the custody of Minneapolis police. Calls for action against police brutality and systemic racial biases have grown as loud as ever in the past week, and a growing movement on social media has called upon citizens to practice humility and take action for justice.
Athletes and prominent voices from around the NFL and beyond have spoken out since Brees’ comments.